Early release of US Marine in Filipino trans woman's slay not yet final: IBP head

Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 02 2020 11:49 PM | Updated as of Sep 03 2020 01:01 AM

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MANILA (UPDATE)- The early release of a US Marine convicted for killing a Filipino transgender woman in 2014, may not be final and could be overturned, the president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines said Wednesday.

An Olongapo City court earlier granted US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Pemberton's plea for release under the good conduct time allowance rule (GCTA), which slashes jail time for convicts showing good behavior while in incarceration. 

IBP president Domingo Cayosa said that the court can still hear the side of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude's camp if they have new evidence or argument that Pemberton cannot be released under the GCTA.

"'Yung GCTA law ho, 'yung pribilehiyo na 'yan na nabibigyan 'yung mga preso ng mga reduction sa kanilang imprisonment, at itong bagong GCTA nung 2013, talaga hong dinoble-doble niya 'yung reduction [ng prison sentence] sa Revised Penal Code. So talagang very liberal, para bang gusto na palayain ang kalahati ng mga preso," Cayosa told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

"Samakatuwid po, 'yung release order, hindi final and executory?" asked ABS-CBN host and broadcaster Alvin Elchico.

"Oo. Kung kwinestiyon naman ng kabilang panig (prosecution), eh didinggin ho ng [korte]," the IBP president replied.

The legal counsel of the Laude camp has filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that there was no proof of Pemberton’s behavior, conduct and participation in rehabilitation activities certified by the time allowance supervisor. 

They also questioned the absence of proof of a recommendation from the Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

Cayosa however said that if BuCor or jail officials have a report stating that Pemberton showed good behavior in prison, the court will "likely" side with the US Marine because it's an official communique.

"Absent any evidence na 'yan (good behavior) ay kasinungalingan, o kaya walang basehan, it enjoys the presumption of regularity," he explained.

The presumption of regularity supports the official acts of public officers, like BuCor officials, and in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, courts presume that they have properly discharged their official duties. 

HISTORY

Pemberton was sentenced to 6 to 10 years in prison for homicide over the October 11, 2014 slay of Laude at an Olongapo motel. The victim's body was discovered inside the bathroom of a hotel in Barangay West Tapinac. 

Hotel staff found Laude's body wrapped in a bedsheet, with her head slumped in the toilet bowl.

The US Marine later admitted he hit and choked Laude when he found out that the latter had male genitals after an intimate act.

Pemberton was convicted of Laude's slay in 2015 and, apart from prison time, was ordered to pay her heirs over P4 million in damages. The Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict in 2017.

Pemberton is being held at a facility at Camp Aguinaldo, instead of regular prison, per provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.