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Pemberton case a future VFA factor

Alvin Murcia



Peace of mind That’s what the lawyer of the Laude family wished Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton the convicted killer of their transgender kin as he was to board the military aircraft that was to deport him back to the United states after being pardoned by President Duterte. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS

The case of convicted killer former US Marines Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton should be taken into account in connection with the future of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and United States.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made this remark following Pemberton’s deportation yesterday morning.

Pemberton, as per the Bureau of Immigration (BI) boarded a military aircraft bound for the United States, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, at exactly 9:14 a.m.

The former US marine was convicted with homicide for killing transgender Jennifer Laude inside a motel in 2014.

President Duterte gave him absolute pardon after a trial court in Olongapo City ruled that he has served his maximum jail sentence of 10 years following the computation of his Good Conduct and Time Allowance (GCTA).

The decision was opposed by the Laude family and the Department of Justice (DoJ) but this was rendered moot by the pardon granted by the President.

Guevarra relieved
“I am relieved to see the end of the Pemberton episode. Though attended with intense conflict, it has provided insights and lessons to ponder on regarding the future of the Visiting Forces Agreement, the administration of criminal justice and the exercise of the President’s constitutional powers,” Guevarra said.

The Department of National Defense (DND) meanwhile said it views the case of Pemberton as a lesson learned while the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) takes it as an isolated case in so far as the country’s defense relations with the United States is concerned.

“Although we have not had any exercises in the Philippines since the COVID-19 pandemic affected our country, we have engaged our American counterparts in frank discussions regarding future incidents involving visiting military personnel,” DND spokesperson, Director Arsenio Andolong said in a text message to reporters.

It was last February when President Duterte ordered the scrapping of the VFA and for the AFP to “cease to have exercises” with its American counterparts once termination of the agreement is final.

The Chief Executive, however, did an about face last June and decided to suspend the abrogation of the military pact while the Philippines and the rest of the world are battling the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Sentence fulfilled
The US Embassy in the Philippines said on Sunday that Pemberton has already fulfilled his sentence in accordance with the Philippine laws.

“All legal proceedings in the case took place under Philippine jurisdiction and law. Lance Cpl. Pemberton fulfilled his sentence as ordered by Philippine courts and he departed the Philippines on September 13,” the US Embassy said in a statement shortly after the Bureau of Immigrations has announced Pemberton’s deportation .
Following Pemberton’s departure, Virginia Suarez, lawyer of the Laude family, said: “May he find peace of mind. Hoping he has learned from all these the value of life and dignity regardless of gender and nationality.”

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said as a consequence of Pemberton’s deportation, he has been placed in the bureau’s blacklist and thus, can no longer go back to the country.

Since 16 September 2015, Pemberton according to Morente has been in the BI’s blacklist when he was ordered deported by the BI’s Board of Commissioners for being an undesirable alien, after being charged for murder, and later being convicted of homicide.

It was signed then by BI Chief Siegfred Mison and Deputies Gilberto Repizo and Abdullah Mangotara.

Pemberton reportedly filed a motion for reconsideration in November 2015, which was subsequently denied.

“His criminal case is separate from his immigration case,” Morente explained.

He added the Bureau saw that he is a risk to public safety, having been found guilty of the crime, thus he was tagged as an undesirable alien, and will be expelled from the Philippines.

Turnover coordinated
“We have coordinated with the Bureau of Corrections for his turnover to our agents upon his release,” Morente said.

Morente shared that Pemberton underwent regular processing and booking procedures, and was required to secure clearances from the appropriate offices, as well as to present a travel document, and outbound travel arrangements, before being deported.

“Upon completion of the required documents, we immediately implemented the deportation,” Morente shared. “He was escorted by BI agents to ensure that he has boarded his aircraft. Should he attempt to re-enter the country after being deported, he will be denied entry and will be excluded,” he stated.