Convicted killer Joseph Scott Pemberton today said he wants to apologize to the family of Filipino transwoman Jennifer Laude after the Duterte government blocked his early release.
“If given the opportunity, he will apologize now. He has been apologetic about the incident and the fact that he has been willing to pay over PHP4 million (US$82,328) to the Laude family and even their legal fees is a very good indication that he is apologetic,” Pemberton’s lawyer Rowena Garcia Flores told cable news show ANC.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that the Olongapo Trial Court has committed “a judicial overreach” by allowing Pemberton to walk away free, after serving just five years and eight months inside Camp Aguinaldo. He added that “the decision on [the] allowance of good conduct is an executive function.”
Shortly after Roque said this, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) said that they will postpone the processing of the former Marine’s release, an instruction given by the Department of Justice.
“The BuCor is probably playing it safe because so many are tuning into [this case] especially now that Harry Roque is speaking up about it, the BuCor might think that [what Roque is saying] is coming from the president.” Flores said in English and Filipino, adding that Roque “should be stopped from further making statements on this case because he’s a person of power now…he might be construed as trying to influence the outcome of the motion before the trial court.”
Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde declared early this week that the former U.S. soldier is eligible for early release under Republic Act No. 10592, or the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law. Pemberton has paid over PHP4.6 million (US$94,785) in civil damages to Laude’s family last week, five years after he was found guilty of strangling her to death in a motel room.
Aside from the Duterte government, Laude’s family has also rejected Pemberton’s early release from prison, with their lawyer Rommel Bagares saying that the American soldier is not eligible for GCTA even under the conditions of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allowed the U.S. to maintain jurisdiction over their servicemen stationed in the Philippines.
However, Flores said that the GCTA “does not distinguish as to the nationality of the person covered by it.”
“The only exclusions are…persons who committed heinous crimes, and those who escaped from imprisonment…so when people say that this does not apply to Pemberton, they have no legal basis,” Pemberton’s lawyer said.
Bagares, however, said in a separate interview with ANC that Pemberton committed a “hate crime without any question” and “should not qualify under the GCTA rules because heinous crimes are not covered by the rules.”
Laude, 26, was found dead in an Olongapo City motel room on Oct. 11, 2014, with her head dunked in a toilet bowl, and visible strangle marks around her neck. Unaware that Laude was a transgender, Pemberton said he was enraged to find she had a penis, which led to an altercation between the two. Pemberton’s fingerprints were found on condoms at the crime scene, and he claimed that he strangled Laude out of self-defense.
This article, Pemberton wants to apologize to Laude’s family after PH gov’t blocks early release, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!