AMERICAN Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was deported yesterday, nearly a week after he was granted absolute pardon by President Duterte in the 2014 killing of transgender Jennifer Laude.
Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Dana Krizia Sandoval said Pemberton was flown out of the country on a US military aircraft from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
“Mr. Pemberton has been successfully deported; military plane left at exactly 9:14 this morning,” Sandoval said, adding Pemberton was accompanied by representatives from the US embassy and Immigration agents on his way to the airport.
“As a consequence of the deportation order against him, Pemberton has been placed on the Bureau’s blacklist, perpetually banning him from coming back,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said the public should never forget who freed Pemberton.
“Never forget Jennifer Laude. Never forget her murder. Never forget the name of her murderer. And most of all, never forget who freed her murderer. Never forget who stole justice from all of us,” Gaite said.
The militant lawmaker said the people will eventually hold Duterte accountable “and history will not be kind (to him).”
“Pres. Duterte will be remembered as the American lackey who freed the murderer of his fellow Filipino. Isang taksil sa sarili niyang kababayan (He’s a traitor to his countrymen),” he said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the controversial case should be taken into account with regard to the future of the Visiting Forces Agreement that governs the conduct of US military forces while on training exercises in the country with their Filipino counterparts.
“I am relieved to see the end of Pemberton’s episode. Though attended with intense conflict, it has provided insights and lessons to ponder regarding the future of the VFA, the administration of criminal justice, and the exercise of the President’s constitutional powers,” Guevarra said.
It will be recalled that Duterte threatened to abrogate the 1998 VFA agreement after the US cancelled the visa of his close ally Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.
He later turned around and announced last June that he is suspending the termination of the abrogation of the VFA, which will last for an initial period of six months, due to “political and other developments in the region.”
The US Embassy in Manila said all legal proceedings in the case took place under Philippine laws and that Pemberton has fulfilled his sentence.
“The Philippine Department of Justice authorized the release of Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton on September 1, and on September 7, President Duterte granted Lance Corporal Pemberton absolute pardon,” the embassy said in a statement it released hours after Pemberton was flown out of the country.
“All legal proceedings in the case took place under Philippine jurisdiction and law. Lance Corporal Pemberton fulfilled his sentence as ordered by Philippine courts and he departed the Philippines on September 13,” it added.
Pemberton was freed after serving just six years of the 10-year sentence imposed by Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 Judge Roline Ginez Jabalde and affirmed by the Court of Appeals in a case that sparked debate over the US military presence in the country.
In granting the US serviceman pardon, Duterte said he is presumed to have exhibited good moral character while detained in a facility at Camp Aguinaldo jointly guarded by US personnel and the Bureau of Corrections.
Details of Pemberton’s flight arrangements were not disclosed to the media until after he left amid tight security measures.
Duterte’s pardon Pemberton sparked condemnation from Vice President Leni Robredo and activists who described the move as a “mockery of justice.”
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who served as a lawyer in the prosecution of Pemberton, had said Duterte’s decision may have stemmed from his desire to get access to coronavirus vaccines being developed by US firms.
However, the Department of Health said none of the US vaccine makers the government is in talks with had set any conditions.
The convoy carrying Pemberton and his escorts left Camp Aguinaldo at past 8 a.m. and proceeded to NAIA Terminal 3.
His camp earlier completed the requirements necessary for his release from detention such as the clearances from the court and the National Bureau of Investigation.
Pemberton also tested negative for COVID-19, with the results released on Saturday, Bureau of Corrections spokesman Gabriel Chaclag said. The BuCor turned him over to the custody of the BI on Saturday.
One of the Laude family’s legal counsels, Virgie Suarez, expressed the hope that Pemberton had learned his lesson.
“May he find peace of mind. Hoping he has learned the value of life and dignity regardless of gender and nationality,” Suarez said. “Jennifer’s case has ended. But not the poverty and struggle borne by the administration’s incompetence to curb COVID-19 and corruption that continue to plague our nation.”
Suarez earlier labeled the pardon as a mockery of the country’s justice system.
On Saturday, Suarez released a statement from Laude’s mother, Julita, expressing disbelief and sadness at the pardon, saying Duterte earlier promised them that as long as he was the president, the US serviceman would remain in jail.
Pemberton also issued a two-paragraph statement coursed through his legal counsel, Rowena Garcia-Flores, where he expressed gratitude for the pardon and an apology to the Laudes.
“Mr. Pemberton wishes to extend his deepest gratitude to President Duterte for granting him an absolute pardon. He is extremely grateful for this act of compassion,” Flores said.
“To the family of Ms. Jennifer Laude, he extends his most sincere sympathy for the pain he caused. In the years he spent in confinement, he spent much time contemplating the many errors in his ways regarding the night of October 11, 2014. He wishes he had the words to express the depth of his sorrow and regret.”
Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said even with the absolute pardon, Pemberton will not be able to return to the country anytime soon because he has been included in the immigration’s blacklist.
“Under the rules, a person blacklisted on the basis of moral turpitude may apply to lift the blacklisting 10 years after its implementation,” Perete said, adding the BI’s order for deportation issued in 2015 is based on a finding of undesirability on account of the commission of a crime involving moral turpitude (homicide).
Pemberton was initially charged for murder but he was convicted on the lesser offense of homicide.
A native of New Bedford, Massachusetts, Pemberton was just 19 years old when he killed Laude after he discovered the latter was a transgender woman inside a motel in Olongapo city.
During the trial, Pemberton said he met Laude at a disco bar while on shore leave.
They later checked into a motel where he admitted chocking Laude after he discovered the victim was a transgender.
Laude’s body was later found by motel staff wrapped in a bed sheet, with her head dunked in the toilet bowl.
Pemberton was an anti-tank missileman with the 2nd Battalion, 9th US Marines, and was in the country to participate in the 2014 edition of the Balikatan military exercises when the crime took place.
The Department of National Defense said stricter measures will be implemented during the conduct of military exercises between the Philippine and US forces to prevent a repetition the incident.
“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,” said DND spokesman Arsenio Andolong.
“Both sides are now more circumspect and, as a result, stricter guidelines will be crafted and implemented in the conduct of joint exercises, if there will be any and if the termination of the VFA remains suspended,” said Andolong.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said: “The incident that involved LCpl.
Pemberton is an isolated case. That does not embody the totality or the intent of training with our American counterparts —or with the armed forces of other countries for that matter.” – With Wendell Vigilia, Victor Reyes and Reuters