Not yet over
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - December 3, 2015 - 9:00am

Joseph Scott Pemberton was pronounced guilty of homicide for the death of Jennifer Laude. The ruling was handed down last Tuesday in Olongapo City. After more than fourteen months after Laude's body was discovered inside a motel bathroom, it was proven beyond reasonable doubt that Pemberton killed him. He was sentenced to not less than six years to not more than twelve years in prison. But after the court ordered the accused to be brought immediately to the New Bilibid Prison, his American guardians immediately surrounded him and prevented local officials from taking him into custody. He was then whisked away and brought back to Camp Aguinaldo where he has been detained since the proceeding began. All this, according to the Americans, are according to the Visiting Forces Agreement. The Olongapo court has asked that documents be produced showing the existence of such an arrangement.

While the family of Laude is glad that justice has been served, they are not happy with the downgrading of Pemberton's case from murder to homicide. According to the court, the circumstances and conditions for murder to be committed was not satisfied, hence the downgrading. Pemberton would have been sentenced to life imprisonment, which is what the family would have wanted. The prosecution lawyers said that cruelty was present, and that Laude was killed by a trained killer, Pemberton being a US Marine. A Supreme Court decision will be sought after by the prosecution regarding the decision. 

At present, Pemberton may not see the inside of a Philippine prison despite the conviction. It all depends on what the Visiting Forces Agreement says about Americans convicted of crimes in the country they are visiting. Once again, the sticky issue of sovereignty is raised. What use are the courts if they cannot enforce sentences on certain individuals, in this case American military personnel?

You will recall the case of Daniel Smith, the American soldier guilty of raping "Nicole." But he was also whisked away and brought to the US embassy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but after a Court of Appeals overturned the decision, he was set free. All that time, he was at the US embassy, even gaining weight from the good meals he had during his stay. A supposed deal between "Nicole" and the Americans may have brought about the change in the color of the case, as "Nicole" recanted her initial statements about the rape.

This case is different. A citizen of this country was killed. It is right that punishment must be handed down. Obviously, the fight is not over. Custody over Pemberton may still have to be fought in the courts. Why this is even happening raises many questions and concerns. That American military personnel can commit crimes, and not really pay for them in a manner which the country mandates. Once again, the Visiting Forces Agreement is in the spotlight.

korina_abs@yahoo.com

 

A SUPREME COURT CAMP AGUINALDO COURT OF APPEALS DANIEL SMITH JENNIFER LAUDE JOSEPH SCOTT PEMBERTON NEW BILIBID PRISON OLONGAPO CITY PEMBERTON QUOT VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT
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