Pemberton most favored convict, says lawmaker

A member of the Makabayan Bloc on Tuesday criticized the decision of the Olongapo Regional Trial Court to reduce the sentence of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted last year for killing Filipina Jennifer Laude.

From the 12-year maximum sentence, the court decided to reduce it to 10 years, in consideration of the "mitigating circumstances" of the case.

"Lowering Pemberton's sentence is an affront to our justice system and the Filipino people. We cannot accept the fact that a convicted murderer has been able to easily sway the court in his favor just because he is a US citizen. It speaks volumes about our nation's continued subservience to the US," Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said.

Ridon added that the reduction of the US marine's jail time adds to the list of favors granted to Pemberton.

"First, Pemberton was allowed to stay, not in a regular prison facility, but in Camp Aguinaldo. Then we have the court affirming his conviction yet reducing his jail time. All these speak of preferential treatment only accorded to US servicemen - the hallmark of unjustifiable subservience of our government to Washington," Ridon said.

Ridon also expressed apprehension that Pemberton shall be accorded a "graceful exit" soon following the court decision.

"We cannot emphasize enough how the loopholes of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) again come into play in this situation. There remains the great possibility that the VFA may again snag another convicted criminal from being penalized under the full extent of Philippine laws. Such caveat reminds us of the case of Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, who was able to escape like a thief in the night from the clutches of Philippine laws back in 2005. It's not far from happening in this case again," Ridon said.

"Justice for Jennifer remains elusive under a system that grants free reign to her killer. Pemberton must be penalized under the full extent of the law. What's more, we reiterate that it is high time that the Philippines abrogate the VFA and its provisions that prove to be vastly unjust on part of the Philippines," Ridon said.

Source: The Standard

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