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PH govt deports US soldier

Pemberton leaves on board military plane, apologizes to Laude kin

A US marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, convicted of killing a transgender woman in Olongapo City, was deported Sunday morning after being pardoned by President Rodrigo Duterte.

US MARINE Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, escorted by immigration officers and US personnel, arrives at the NAIA to board a C-130 Hercules cargo plane. An immigration spokesman confirms that Pemberton has left the country at 9:14 a.m. Sunday but the pardon has renewed anti-American sentiment in the Philippines. AFP
Pemberton was halfway through his maximum 10-year prison term for the 2014 murder when Duterte this unexpectedly ordered his release, drawing condemnation from rights groups.

Escorted by US military personnel, the 25-year-old left on board a US military plane at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 9:14 a.m., the Bureau of Immigration said.

"Pemberton wishes to express his deepest gratitude to President Duterte for granting him an absolute pardon. He is extremely grateful for this act of compassion," his lawyer Rowena Flores said in a statement.

Flores said Pemberton extends his "sincere sympathy for the pain he caused" to the family of his victim Jennifer Laude, the first formal apology from the marine.

"He wishes he had the words to express the depth of his sorrow and regret," she added.

Pemberton met Laude in October 2014 in a bar in Olongapo City after a joint US-Philippine military exercise.

During the trial, a lower court heard that Pemberton and Laude agreed to have sex but the drunken marine turned violent when he discovered Laude still had male genitals. Laude was found strangled in a motel room with her head in a toilet bowl.

The lawyer for Laude's family condemned the pardon, which has renewed anti-American sentiment in the former US colony.

"May he find peace of mind. (I'm) hoping he has learned from all these the value of life and dignity regardless of gender and nationality," lawyer Virginia Suarez said.

As part of his deportation to the United States, Pemberton is now banned from entering the Philippines for being a "risk to public safety," the immigration bureau added.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a press statement that Pemberton has been in the bureau's blacklist since Sept. 16, 2015, when he was ordered deported by the Board of Commissioners for being an undesirable alien, after being charged for murder, and later being convicted of homicide.

In a statement on Sunday, the US Embassy said the Department of Justice authorized the release of Pemberton on Sept. 1 and President Rodrigo Duterte granted him an absolute pardon on Sept. 7.

"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 Sept. 13," the embassy said.

Meanwhile, Department of National Defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong said stricter guidelines will be crafted and implemented between the Philippines and the US in the conduct of joint exercises.

“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 (Visiting Forces Agreement) VFA remains suspended,” he said.

Andolong made the comment when asked what measures should be taken by the Philippines and US to avoid a similar incident involving foreign soldiers in the future.

“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,” he said.

Duterte said he granted Pemberton an absolute pardon, saying he was not treated fairly while detained because his good conduct time allowance (GCTA) credits were not recorded by the authorities.

The pardon extinguished the issue of whether Pemberton was entitled to GCTA.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Sunday said the Pemberton case should be taken into consideration should the Philippines negotiate in a Visiting Forces Agreement with another country.

“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 in a text message to reporters.

Guevarra made the statement after Pemberton was deported. With AFP

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Jennifer Laude , Joseph Scott Pemberton , COVID-19 , Sung Kim , Harry Roque , Menardo Guevarra , Bureau of Corrections
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