MANILA, Philippines — US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton will walk free soon from what was supposed to be a 10-year prison term after a local court ordered his early release for good conduct.
Relatives of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, whom Pemberton strangled and killed in a motel in Olongapo in 2014, questioned records of the US marine’s good conduct and the lack of government records of his good behavior in prison.
Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74 Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde held that Pemberton is now “entitled to be released for he had already served the ten year maximum of his penalty.”
“The Director General, Bureau of Corrections is directed to release accused L/Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton from detention unless he is being held for some other lawful cause or causes,” the order made public on Wednesday read.
Bureau of Corrections spokesman Gabriel Chaclag said his office just received the Olongapo court’s order to release US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted for killing Jennifer Laude in 2014. | @_ralphedwinpic.twitter.com/P22zxwzhKJ
— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) September 2, 2020
The court convicted Pemberton of homicide in December 2015. The Court of Appeals ruled that the US marine should serve ten years in prison.
According to the court’s computation, Pemberton has served a total of 2,142 days, while his GCTA amounted to 1,548 days, amounting to the total of 3,690 days.
Following this, the court held that Pemberton has served a total of 10 years, one month and one day, “which is more than the ten year maximum penalty imposed by this court and affirmed by the Court of Appeals.”
The court also noted that Pemberton has already made a “full payment” of damages to the Laude family amounting to P4.65 million on August 25.
Pemberton’s perfect scores
Under the law, time allowance rewarded from good conduct will be computed as follows:
- During the first two years of imprisonment, 20 days reduction for every month of good behavior
- During third to fifth year, a reduction of 23 days for each month of good behavior
- From fourth to 10 year, 25 days deduction for each month of good behavior
- For the 11th and succeeding years, a deduction of 35 days for each month of good behavior
- Additional 15 days deduction for each month of study, teaching or mentoring time rendered
The court document showed that Pemberton has achieved perfect scores for December 2015 and every month of 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and until August 2020. This earned him a deduction in is sentence of 1,288 days.
The court also accounted for 260 days of GCTA from his preventive imprisonment.
But Laude’s mother, Marilou Laude-Mahait, argued that there is no proof of good behavior from Pemberton, neither is there a showing that he participated in rehabilitation programs.
Laude’s mother also questioned the lack of records from the Time Allowance Supervisor. “Under the 2017 Uniform Manual on Time Allowances and Service of Sentence, if Pemberton has attended and actively participated in any of the rehabilitation programs; or if he has productively participated in authorized work activities; or if he has accomplished any exemplary deed—the Time Allowance Supervisor would have recorded the same. But there is none,” the appeal read.
Pemberton served his sentence at the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. A 2015 STAR report said that he was guarded by Bureau of Corrections personnel.
“All that Pemberton submitted is his self-serving computation. Even the [BuCor’s] submission was just a mere computation without any material basis. Hence, should not be given credence by the Honorable Court,” their motion for reconsideration filed Wednesday read.
“His conduct was never put to test as he has never joined other convicts. Had he served his sentence in National Bilibid, maybe his application for good conduct would have some basis,” they added.
The Department of Justice in September 2019 revised the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance law after questions were raised on applying the measure on the case of murder and rape convict Antonio Sanchez.
This prompted the DOJ to revised the IRR and exclude inmates who are recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapists and those charged with heinous crimes from GCTA.
The controversy also led to President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to “re-arrest” 1,914 heinous crimes convicts freed through GCTA, despite the inmates already earning releases following the computation of the BuCor.
At a Senate hearing into the issue, then-BuCor Director General Nicanor Faeldon explained that the bureau had been following the 2013 Implementing Rules and Regulations in processing the inmates’ GCTA.
“As far as the bureau is concerned and based on the Uniform Manual, which was later on passed, Section 3 of Republic Act 10592, talks about Article 96 of the Revised Penal Code, it does not exclude any convict of any crime,” Faeldon had said.
Pemberton was convicted of homicide, which is not a heinous crime according to the DOJ’s IRR.
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