Olongapo court's release order on Pemberton based on GCTA "judicial overreach" - Palace
Malacanang said on Thursday the decision of a lower court ordering the release of convicted killer US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton for his good conduct while servicing his sentence was a "judicial overreach."
In a televised press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who was then the legal counsel for the family of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude, said the granting of Good Conduct Time Allowance is a function of the executive and not of the judiciary.
"It turns out that the decision of the court was against or contrary to the recommendation made by the Bureau of Corrections, also included is the point that Pemberton's supposed educational activity should not have been given the allowance for good credit," he said.
"Those who are handling Pemberton, give the executive branch the chance to move for reconsideration because the decision on allowance for good conduct is an executive function," Roque said.
He said the decision of Olongapo Regional Trial Court Presiding Judge Roline M. Ginez-Jabalde to order Pemberton's release based on GCTA "is an instance of judicial overreach."
"Since this (GCTA) is a law, it is the executive that will determine the entitlement to liberality as far as punishment is concerned," he said.
The spokesman urged the court not to release yet Pemberton as the BuCor would file a motion for reconsideration.
"Don't release him yet because that decision is not yer final and executory, the Republic of the Philippines can still file a motion for reconsideration," he added.
During the latter part of the press briefing, Roque received a text message from BuCor chief Gerald Bantag informing him that per advice of the Department of Justice, Pemberton's release order would not be processed since there was a motion for reconsideration that was filed.
"We'll just wait for the resolution of the MR," said Roque quoting Bantag.
Asked of President Rodrigo Duterte's reaction on the Pemberton's case, Roque said the Chief Executive has no "personal thought yet" on the matter.
But he noted that the Duterte earlier ordered the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US. However, Duterte also asked for the suspension of the termination amid the coronavirus disease pandemic.
Roque also wondered why Pemberton, despite his conviction, was not transferred to the New Bilibid Prison where convicted felons serve their sentence.
Pemberton has been placed in a facility inside the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Quezon City and being guarded by American soldiers.
"As I’ve said, the death of Jennifer Laude is symbolic of the death of Philippines’ sovereignty. How come the crime happened in the Philippines, the victim is a Filipino, but we never held Pemberton when he was still being tried and now even if symbolically we are holding him, yet the American soldiers are still there," he said.
In ordering Pemberton's release, the Olongapo court cited that the US serviceman has a total accumulated time served of 10 years, one month, and 10 days based on GCTA even if his actual imprisonment is only six years.
Pemberton was convicted of homicide in December 2015 for killing Laude inside a motel in 2014. He was ordered to be imprisoned for six to 10 years. Celerina Monte/DMS