MANILA, Philippines — According to an official from the Department of Justice, the absolute pardon of US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton did not go through the usual process but is within the President’s powers.
The process of an application of pardon usually goes through the Board of Pardons and Parole and then later on endorsed to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ, in turn, endorses a request to the Office of the President.
“Ang only condition required ng Constitution, ‘yung bibigyan ng pardon has been convicted by final judgment.”DOJ spokesperson Undersecretary Markk Perete
(The only condition required under the Constitution is that the one to be given pardon has been convicted by final judgment.)
Even if Pemberton’s camp did not apply, according to Perete, Duterte may still grant pardon even without an application.
“While there is a normal procedure, ‘yung procedure na ‘yung hindi nangangahulugan na hindi puwedeng mag-grant ng pardon ang pangulo on his own,” said Perete.
(While there is a normal procedure, that procedure does not mean that the President cannot grant pardon on his own.)
Duterte’s decision to grant an absolute pardon to Pembleton came as a surprise as the state was just about to challenge Olongapo court’s grant for his early release due to good conduct almost 5 years from when he was convicted for the murder of transgender woman Jennifer Laude.
Perete explained that despite the absence of an application for a pardon, “based on his appreciation of the fact and the argument, decided to give pardon on his own.”
In an article by ABS-CBN news, Perete explained that if the requirement under the Constitution was complied with, then there is no legal basis to question the exercise of the grant of pardon.
“I think the proceedings in so far as the case is concerned has been terminated. In fact, Pemberton was convicted.”
As a former prosecutor, Duterte decided to pardon Pemberton as he saw that the US marine had been treated unfairly. He said that under a law that shortens prison terms based on good behavior, officials had not accurately measured Pemberton’s jailtime.
Pemberton was convicted on December 2015 for Jennifer Laude’s homicide in October 2014, a sentence that landed him 6-10 years in prison after finding out she was a transgender female.
In the Philippine Constitution, an absolute pardon will relieve Pemberton of criminal liability and will restore his civil and political rights, and remits penalties that were imposed for his crime. He had paid over P4 million in damages to the Laude family.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Duterte consulted him before he made the decision to pardon Pemberton. According to Guevarra, the pardon is an “act of grace” on the part of the chief executive and that he may exercise the plenary power of executive clemency at anytime and under any circumstance.