Final postscript to the Pemberton brouhaha

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Now, that Joseph Scott Pemberton has been deported and declared by our immigration authorities as “persona non grata” and has been blacklisted and could no longer be allowed to enter our country ever again, it’s time to put that issue to rest. He has been dismissed dishonorably by the Marines. His punishment is enough. Time to move on and focus on the more important issues confronting us.

Those who keep on ranting on this dead horse better read the Constitution and be aware of the laws before they open their mouths again. The president of the Philippines has the almost absolute power to grant pardons and other forms of executive clemency to any convicted felon anytime and anywhere. And nobody has the right to question his decision before any court of law. All heads of state and all heads of government all over the world are usually vested by their fundamental law that presidential power. No one can question the wisdom of its exercise, not even the Supreme Court, because it is a political matter that only the chief executive is empowered to exercise. President Duterte's exercise of that power is neither controversial nor unprecedented.

During the Christmas season in 2012, President PNoy pardoned Agustin Caballero, Nicador Medel, Clarita Miranda, Pablito Estrada, Felipe Gahit Sr., Verando Generalo, and commuted the sentences of Aurelio Amolong and Celerino Sanchez. He did not have to explain why or give any accounting to the nation on the rationale of such decisions. Sometime in October 2007, President GMA granted absolute pardon to former president Erap, which restored the latter's civil and political rights. Erap also pardoned many convicts during his brief presidency. Even FVR granted pardoned to Robin Padilla, which was further improved by President Duterte by conferring on Padilla full restoration of his rights.

All presidents from Aguinaldo to Quezon to Marcos and Corazon Aquino did exercise this constitutional power. These are matters that you and I can do nothing about but submit to the powers of the head of state. President Trump also pardoned in February this year, seven hardened criminals, including Michael Milken, the “junk bond king”, and former police New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, as well as former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for trying to sell to the highest bidder the senate seat vacated by Barack Obama who ran for president. Trump also pardoned Edward de Bartolo Jr., former owner of San Francisco's 49ers. He paid $400 million to the state governor in exchange for a license to operate his gambling consortium.

Pemberton, a US marine, was convicted and suffered imprisonment for five years. In a state of rage and drunkenness, he killed a Filipino transgender, Jennifer Laude in a motel somewhere in Olongapo. Pemberton was convicted and served his sentence partially when the court, upon the recommendation of prison authorities, ordered his release by crediting him for good behavior, in accordance with law. President Duterte then completed the government clemency by extending to him absolute pardon. That way, he could go back and avail of his rights to study for free in college as a former Marine. The president allowed Pemberton another chance to reform. He was 19 years old when he committed the crime. At age 25, he has plenty of opportunities to manifest the goodness in his being.

Only those who are without sin among us have the right to condemn Pemberton, who is already a reformed sinner. We never say that his act of killing Laude was right. It was wrong. But he paid his debts. He was pardoned. And we should all move on and learn from that sad episode in our lives. We have a lot of more pressing and important challenges before us.

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