Duterte pardon grant to Pemberton 'solely his own' — Guevarra

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Duterte pardon grant to Pemberton 'solely his own' � Guevarra
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on Sept. 7, 2020.
Presidential photo / Ace Morandante

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s grant of absolute pardon to US Marine L/Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was solely his decision, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

While the DOJ chief earlier said he was “consulted” before the president made the decision, he explained that “no one prompted” Duterte’s decision to grant pardon to Pemberton. State prosecutors filed a motion for reconsideration on the Olongapo court's September 1 release order for the US serviceman on Tuesday, Guevarra said.

“From where I was sitting this afternoon at the presidential residence, I saw that the president’s decision to grant pardon to Pemberton was solely his own,” Guevarra told reporters.

In his public address aired Monday night, Duterte said, in his view, Pemberton was not treated fairly. He said the US soldier, who was detained in a facility in military headquarters, cannot be faulted for records of his good behavior while serving his preventive detention — an issue raised in the appeal of the family of Jennifer Laude.

READ: Laude family's lawyer: GCTA should not apply on Pemberton's case | Pemberton's early release for good conduct raises questions from Laude family

“The president simply felt that it was not Pemberton’s fault that there was no way of recording his behavior in a military detention center all alone by himself. So since there were no reports of misbehaviour, the presumption of good conduct was on his side,” Guevarra said.

Guevarra also said 15 minutes into the meeting, US Ambassador Sung Kim arrived and he too “seemed rather surprised when the president mentioned Pemberton’s pardon, and he thanked the president for it.”

READ: Duterte on Pemberton pardon: Allow him the good character presumption

Lawyer Virginia Suarez, counsel of the Laude family, however, challenged Duterte’s statement that Pemberton was treated unfairly.

She pointed out that the Philippines has never had custody of Pemberton, as our own police had difficulty serving summons to him.

“Since conviction in 2015, Pemberton has been detained in a privileged and [air-conditioned] facility in Camp Aguinaldo with US soldiers guarding him,” she said.

“His [Good Conduct and Time Allowance] was ordered by the trial court without even furnishing copies of pleadings and notices to the Laude [family] and counsel, not even to the public prosecution. A matter that should have been the sole discretion of BuCor, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and Warden,” Suarez also said.

Duterte granted pardon while the Department of Justice was in the process of joining the Laude family in opposing the Olongapo court’s September 1 order for release for Pemberton. State prosecutors were expected to raise jurisdictional issues and divergence in the computation of the US serviceman’s GCTA in their motion for reconsideration to be filed this week.

But with Duterte’s decision, the appeal filed on Tuesday “has become moot and academic.”

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