On Duterte’s granting of absolute pardon to Laude killer US Marine Pemberton

Marco Valbuena | Chief Information Officer | Communist Party of the Philippines
September 07, 2020

Duterte’s granting of absolute pardon to US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton is an act of subservience to the US government and military, a grave injustice to Jennifer Laude and her family and, an act of national indignity and treachery to the Filipino people. Allowing Pemberton to go free without having properly served his sentence must be denounced with full force.

The lack of justice in the Laude killing demonstrates in no uncertain terms why the US-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement of 1998 violates Philippine sovereignty and why it must be abrogated. The VFA gives US military personnel extraordinary rights while in the Philippines which by default exempts them from coverage of local laws. Under the VFA, several killings and a number of abuses committed by American marines remain unpunished.

For five years since his crime and conviction, Pemberton was not for one moment placed under Philippine sovereignty. The US government never gave up jurisdiction, not during the time that he was being tried and even after he was convicted. He was never placed under the Bureau of Prisons and was instead kept in a “special prison facility” in Camp Aguinaldo under the authority of the US embassy. Worse, there has been no independent verification that Pemberton actually stayed inside the facility. Even with token Filipino guards who are not allowed inside, there was no way for the Philippine government to make sure that the prisoner was inside.

By pardoning Pemberton, Duterte reaffirmed his 180-degree turn from his declaration of abrogating the VFA, which he made in February, but which he took back in June. His foreign policy has never been “independent” as he insists on claiming.

The Party joins the Laude family and the Filipino people in condemning the granting of absolute pardon to convicted killer Joseph Scott Pemberton. Instead of early release, Pemberton must be transferred from his US Embassy-managed special detention to a Philippine prison facility.

The Party further echoes the Filipino people’s patriotic calls for the abrogation of the VFA, as well as all unequal military treaties including the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement of 2014 and other unequal military treaties.

By granting special presidential pardon to Pemberton, even when the Olongapo Regional Trial Court already ordered his early release by virtue of “good conduct time allowance,” is part of Duterte’s personal political agenda. Duterte clearly aims to please US President Trump and the US military in the face of growing discontent within the US State Department over his corrupt deals with China, in the hopes of neutralizing those calling for his early removal.

Duterte also calculates he can preempt the growing number of pro-US officers in the AFP and PNP who are itching to take action against him in the face of growing dissatisfaction within the military and police over corruption and favoritism of key pro-Duterte officers.

At any rate, it is the height of opportunism for Duterte to mess around with matters of Philippine sovereignty to pursue self-serving political aims.