Roque believes Pemberton pardon linked to Duterte’s desire to get COVID-19 vaccine access


MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte likely granted absolute pardon to US soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton to help the Philippines gain access to coronavirus vaccines being developed by American drugmakers, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday.

Roque claimed the chief executive’s move was grounded on national interest.

“Ang pagbibigay ng pardon kay Pemberton ay kabahagi ng pagnanais ni president na pag may vaccine na na-develop, kung sa America man, ay makikinabang din ang Pilipinas,” Roque said although he insisted he was expressing a personal opinion.

(The granting of pardon to Pemberton is part of the president’s desire for the Philippines to benefit from a vaccine that America might develop.)

Roque stood as one of the counsels of the family of the US soldier’s victim—transgender woman Jennifer Laude.

In justifying his boss’ surprise move, Roque stressed that Duterte has repeatedly emphasized the need for a coronavirus vaccine to help end Southeast Asia’s worst outbreak.

“At sa akin po, bagamat tayo ay tumayong abogado ng pamilyang Laude, eh kung ang ibig sabihin naman niyan ay lahat ng Pilipino ay magkakaroon ng vaccine kung Amerikano ang maka-develop, wala akong problema dyan,” he said.

(Even if I lawyered for the Laude family, if that means all Filipinos will have access to the vaccine that Americans will develop, I have no problem with that.)

The United States is among the countries leading the global race in the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

Early this week, Duterte granted absolute pardon to Pemberton, effectively rendering moot the court proceedings opposing the American convict’s release order through the Good Conduct and Time Allowance law. He said the soldier was treated unfairly by authorities.

Authorities have started processing Pemberton’s release.

Roque said that justice has been served to the Laude family because the soldier was convicted and paid P4.3 million in civil liabilities to the Laude family. Laude was strangled and killed by Pemberton in a motel in Olongapo in 2014. — Gaea Katreena Cabico with report from Kristine Joy Patag

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