The Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) has ordered the Philippine and the United States governments to submit a note identifying a permanent jail where a convicted US Marine, Joseph Scott Pemberton, will serve his prison sentence.
According to a two-page order of Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde, the Philippine Commission on Visiting Forces (PCVF) through its executive director, retired general Eduardo Oban Jr., was directed to submit a memorandum of agreement (MOA) within five days.
The Olongapo City RTC on Tuesday convicted Pemberton of homicide for killing Jennifer Laude, a transgender, in a motel in October 2014 after joint US-Philippine military exercises near the city.
Jabalde sentenced Pemberton to six to 12 years in jail–after the charge was reduced from murder, which carries a heavier penalty–citing mitigating circumstances, including Laude not revealing that she was a transgender.
The court heard that Pemberton and Laude agreed to have sex after meeting in a bar, but that the drunken US Marine turned violent when he discovered that Laude still had male genitals.
It ordered Pemberton’s incarceration at the national penitentiary–the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila)–but the convict was taken to a temporary detention facility at the Philippine military’s custodial center in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City pending a final decision on where he would serve his sentence.
“In view thereof, the Executive Director of PCVF is hereby ordered to submit to this court within five days from today the memorandum of agreement entered into by the above-mentioned agencies, and the written agreement between duly authorized representatives of the United States and the Republic of the Philippines on the confinement or detention of accused Pemberton after conviction,” the court ruled.
“Pending the submission of the MOA and written agreement between duly authorized representatives of the United States of America and the Republic of the Philippines, accused [Lance] Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton is temporarily confined or detained [at the ]AFP Custodial Center at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, under the supervision of the Bureau of Corrections. Otherwise , the commitment order dated December 01, 2015 shall be enforced,” it said.
The RTC ruled that the convict be immediately brought to the national penitentiary.
Before the promulgation of the case, the Supreme Court denied a petition of the Laude family to order the transfer of Pemberton to a regular jail.
The US insists that its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the Philippines provides that American personnel accused of crimes will remain under US custody until completion of all judicial proceedings.
Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Ricardo Rainier Cruz 3rd also on Wednesday said there is no chance that Pemberton will be detained at the national penitentiary.
Cruz added that he had expected that Pemberton will not be brought to the NBP despite a court order.
He said the government must follow the VFA notwithstanding the public clamor that the 20-year-old American should be held with ordinary inmates.
“I want to make this clear. Pemberton is covered by the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement, stating that he shall be detained at the mutually-agreed prison facility. And the agreed prison facility was the NBP station facility in Camp Aguinaldo,” the BuCor chief added.
He explained that there is an existing MOA between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and BuCor to use a detention cell in Camp Aguinaldo as the extension facility of NBP.
Cruz assured that Pemberton would not get special treatment from the 18 BuCor personnel, who will watch over the US Marine.
The only problem now, he said, is how they will feed Pemberton as the national penitentiary only has a daily food budget allocation of 50 pesos per prisoner.