Vice President Leni Robredo (Photo courtesy CNN PH)
By Junex Doronio
IS IT FAIR AND JUST? This was the question posed on Tuesday by Vice President Leni Robredo on the presidential pardon accorded to US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton who had killed transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude on October 11, 2014.
The Vice President said that there are many Filipinos who have been jailed for minor offenses but because they are poor the government apparently could not care less.
“Isa lang ang kasong ito sa maraming patunay ng pagkiling sa makapangyarihan na nakikita natin mula sa pamahalaan. Napakaraming mga Pilipino na mas magaan ang sala, ngunit hindi nabibigyang-pansin o nabibigyan ng ganitong uri ng pribilehiyo. Ang nakikita natin: Kapag mahirap, may parusa; kapag mayaman at nasa poder, malaya,” Robredo lamented.
It was gathered that the camp of Pemberton paid civil damages to the family of slain transgender Filipino Jennifer Laude only on August 25 this year.
Laude counsel Atty. Virgie Suarez bared in an interview on GMA News Unang Balita on Tuesday that the order to pay for the civil damages was issued in December 2015.
Pemberton, who was found guilty of homicide, was then ordered by the court to pay the Laude family at least P4.5 million for various damages.
It can also be recalled that in the Philippine Star news report dated March 15, 2015 Julita Laude, the victim’s mother “is reportedly seriously considering a P21-million offer from the camp of the accused in exchange for lowering the charge from murder to homicide.”
For his part, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed that President Duterte consulted him before granting the pardon.
“Pardon is an act of grace on the part of the chief executive. He may exercise this plenary power of executive clemency at any time and under any circumstance,” Guevarra said.
The Vice President, however, still made a scathing question.
“Ang tanong nga natin: Patas at makatarungan ba ang naging desisyong ito? Libo-libo ang nakakulong pa rin dahil walang pambayad sa abugado. Hindi malitis-litis ang kanilang mga kaso. May mga pamilya silang nagugutom, nagkakasakit, at naghihirap,” Robredo said.
The Vice President noted that Pemberton had lawyers, special detention facilities, a quick, public trial, and an appeal.
Pemberton was never jailed alongside other inmates and was alone in his detention center inside the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.