Pemberton's lawyer seeks dismissal of Laude family appeal on court's early release order
LGBTQ+ rights group Bahaghari and other progressive groups held an indignation rally in front of the Department of Justice office in Manila on September 3 to condemn the court's early release order for US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.
The STAR/Krizjohn Rosales
Pemberton's lawyer seeks dismissal of Laude family appeal on court's early release order
Kristine Joy Patag ( - September 4, 2020 - 2:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — The lawyer of US Marine L/Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton asked the court to dismiss the appeal filed by the family of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude to block the early release of the American serviceman.

Pemberton, through his lawyer Rowena Flores, filed an Opposition to the motion for reconsideration filed by the family of Laude, arguing that the appeal lacks merit and the family lost the personality to assail the court's order.

Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74 Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde held that Pemberton is now “entitled to be released for he had already served the ten-year maximum of his penalty.” This was after the court accounted for the 1,548 days of time allowances Pemberton earned for his good behavior while in prison, following the GCTA law.

But Laude’s sister, Marilou Laude-Mahait, filed a motion for reconsideration on the court's order and argued that there is no proof of good behavior from Pemberton, neither is there a showing that he participated in rehabilitation programs.

RELATED: Pemberton's early release for good conduct raises questions from Laude family

Pemberton’s lawyer argued that the motion for reconsideration did not explain why the computation of GCTA is wrong and failed to substantiate their claim that Pemberton is not entitled to GCTA benefits.

They said Laude’s legal team merely speculated whether the American serviceman showed good behavior while in prison while BuCor officers guarded Pemberton 24/7 and they “attested to the good conduct of Pemberton, based on personal knowledge.”

“[T]he BuCor’s certification of good conduct carries with it the presumption of regularity that Private Complainant failed to rebut. Private complainant’s speculative and personal opinion of what out to constitute good conduct cannot overcome such presumption,” the pleading read.

Pemberton’s lawyer also asserted that the participation of Laude family in the case is limited only to the civil liability, and has “lost the personality” to participate in the proceedings on the case.

The Department of Justice has not replied on whether the state prosecution also filed a motion for reconsideration on the court’s order.

Equal protection clause

Pemberton’s lawyer also argued that the GCTA law does not distinguish who is entitled to its benefits, but only disqualifies recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and convicts of heinous crimes.

These exclusions do not apply on Pemberton, his lawyer said.

“To treat Pemberton differently from the around 20,000 inmates who have benefited from the GCTA Law since 2013, when there exists no substantial distinction between them to justify different treatment is tantamount to asking the Honorable Court to disregard the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of laws,” they said.

“He cannot be deprived of GCTA credits by reason of the allegedly comfortable jail where he served his prison sentence because such place was agreed upon between the governments of the Philippines and the United States,” the opposition further read.

Lawyer Romel Bagares, part of Laude family’s legal team, argued that Pemberton could not avail the benefits of the GCTA law because his situation was covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement, a different modality.

In an interview on Thursday, Bagares also said they cannot raise equal protection of the law since “to begin with, there is really no equal treatment given to someone who is convicted or who is being prosecuted under the VFA because it is treated in a separate manner.”

The Bureau of Corrections has put on hold the processing of Pemberton’s release pending the court’s resolution of the motion of reconsideration that is set for hearing on Monday, September 7.

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