Jail being built for Pemberton at Camp Aguinaldo?

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A jailhouse is reportedly being built jointly by the Philippine and United States governments inside Camp Aguinaldo to accommodate US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton following his conviction for homicide.

Pemberton is currently incarcerated in an air-conditioned container van located inside a US-controlled facility at the main headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Camp Aguinaldo, where he was detained for more than a year during the trial.

Pemberton was sentenced to six to 12 years in jail for killing Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude inside a motel room in Olongapo City in October last year.

“From what I’ve learned, the jailhouse will be just an extension facility of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and will be guarded by prison guards from the bureau,” an official revealed yesterday.

He added construction of the facility, located inside the compound of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), would be bankrolled mostly by the US government.

Another source clarified the extension BuCor facility used to be a former detention place for arrested military coup plotters that included former Magdalo leader and now Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

“There’s no ongoing construction of a new jail facility, only repairs of the AFP Custodial Center,” he said.

Department of National Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez explained the jail facility where Pemberton will be transferred is just an extension facility of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) of BuCor.

“I believe there will be a facility that will be made,” Galvez said.

He added all actions to be taken on Pemberton would depend on the court decision.

Contrary to reports that jurisdiction of Pemberton has been turned over to the Philippines following his conviction, several US servicemen are still watching over him at his detention inside the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) compound.

As ordered by the court, Pemberton was supposed to be incarcerated at the NBP.

However, US and Filipino officials, citing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), were able to convince Olongapo City court Judge Roline Jinez Jabalde to allow Pemberton temporary detention at the Camp Aguinaldo custodial center.

Malacañang said the Department of Justice (DOJ) would be in charge of matters on the custody of Pemberton.

The Olongapo court amended its earlier commitment order on Pemberton and said the US serviceman should be “temporarily confined” at the AFP Custodial Center in Camp Aguinaldo.

The DOJ said Pemberton’s detention “shall at all times be carried out within Philippine territory, under guard by and in line with existing regulations of the BuCor.”

Foreign Affairs officials said under the VFA, the confinement and detention of US servicemen facing charges in the Philippines shall be carried out in facilities agreed upon by the two governments.

As announced by DOJ, “the agreed location is at Camp Aguinaldo,” the officials said.

Special prisoner

Trillanes said the VFA between the US and the Philippines is proof that the agreement worked during the Pemberton case.

Trillanes pointed out the US government allowed Pemberton, an American, to be subjected to Philippine judicial processes. 

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the US-Philippines bilateral and diplomatic relationships will not be affected by the conviction of Pemberton.

“The crime was committed by an individual through his own acts in Philippine territory. The country has to uphold and promote respect for the laws of our nation. I expect the government of the United States of America to comply with and respect the decision,” he added.

Critics, however, insisted Pemberton should be incarcerated just like a common prisoner in the NBP.

“This special treatment is a clear affront committed by the US against our judiciary and our laws, which shows that the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement are not acceptable,” Gabriela Rep. Emmereciana de Jesus said.

Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said the US government’s “arrogant defiance” of the ruling issued by the Philippine court by bringing Pemberton once more to Camp Aguinaldo transgresses Philippine sovereignty.

“No more special treatment for Pemberton. This is a clear demonstration of how lopsided and unjust the VFA is. This military agreement entered into by the Philippine government with the US denies justice for Jennifer and denies justice for people,” she said.

Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate of the Bayan Muna party-list group expressed dismay at the return of Pemberton to Camp Aguinaldo.

“The refusal of the US troops to surrender Pemberton to Philippine authorities, that even resulted in a brief standoff after the hearing, is telling of the state of our sovereignty. The government is impotent of shielding our people from heinous crimes committed by US troops,” Colmenares said.

“The Philippine government must assert its jurisdiction over Pemberton, who is a convicted felon. The government must stop acting like a doormat and put its foot down and jail Pemberton in Bilibid, where he belongs,” he said.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said there was special consideration given to Pemberton.

“Why was he not brought to the Bilibid?” asked Pabillo.

Pabillo said had the accused been a Filipino, he would have been directly taken to the NBP.

However, the debate over where Pemberton should be incarcerated could prove futile since the convicted US serviceman could be released on bail.

Since homicide is a bailable offense, legal experts said Pemberton could apply for bail grant pending appeal of his conviction before the court.  – With Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Evelyn Macairan, Helen Flores

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