Pemberton case leaves lessons to ponder on for future of VFA – DOJ

Robie de Guzman   •   September 14, 2020   •   191

US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton

MANILA, Philippines – The case of convicted killer US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton should be taken into account in reviewing the future of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

Guevarra made the remark following the deportation of Pemberton on Sunday morning, a few days after he was granted absolute pardon by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Justice chief believes that the issue also left lessons to ponder on regarding the administration of criminal justice in the country, as well as the presidential constitutional powers.

“I am relieved to see the end of Pemberton episode. Though attended with intense conflict, it has provided valuable insights and lessons to ponder on regarding the future of the visiting forces agreement, the administration of criminal justice, and the exercise of the president’s constitutional powers,” he said in a statement.

Pemberton departed from the country aboard a military aircraft bound for the United States at 9:14 a.m. on Sunday.

The Bureau of Immigration said that as a consequence of his deportation, Pemberton has been placed on the agency’s blacklist and can no longer return to the country.

“Perpetually banned na siya from entering the country and any attempt in the future to enter the Philippines hindi po siya papayagang pumasok. He will be excluded at pababalikin kung saan siya nanggaling,” said BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval.

The US serviceman was convicted of homicide for killing Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude inside a motel in Olongapo City in 2014.

Duterte granted him absolute pardon after an Olongapo court ordered the Bureau of Corrections to recompute the time that Pemberton served and to determine if he is eligible to avail the good conduct time allowance rule. – RRD (with details from Correspendent Dante Amento)

Composite teams given 30 days to further probe PhilHealth mess – DOJ

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The composite teams conducting investigation into the allegations of corruption within the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) have been given 30 days to further probe the issue, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Wednesday.

In a statement, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they will ask the teams to finish their investigations into PhilHealth’s IT and legal sectors in a month.

“Then we’ll prepare the complaints if there’s enough evidentiary basis,” he added.

The composite teams consist of members from the DOJ, National Bureau of Investigation, Anti-Corruption Commission, Anti-Money Laundering Council, and Office of the Special Assistant to the President, with the help of the Commission on Audit.

Guevarra said the timeline will begin when recently-installed PhilHealth president and CEO Atty. Dante Gierran formally assumes his post after he takes his oath on Wednesday.

The Task Force PhilHealth led by Guevarra already handed its probe results to President Rodrigo Duterte last Monday.

The report contained findings into the thousands of unfiled cases against erring PhilHealth employees and health care institutions, as well as recommendations on the filing of complaints against several officials of the agency, including its former chief Ricardo Morales.

Some lawmakers have expressed dismay over the exclusion of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who sits as PhilHealth chairman by virtue of his position, from the list of officials liable for the PhilHealth mess.

But Guevarra earlier stressed that other officials were spared from the list because the investigation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the camp of Morales assured that the former PhilHealth chief is ready to face the complaints relating to issues hounding the state insurer.

They also maintained that Morales had no hand in the alleged corruption within the agency.

“Our client is a man of integrity and completely denies any wrongdoings and the criminal charges against him,” Atty. Arnedo Valera, Morales’ legal spokesperson, said.

“His attorneys… will vigorously defend Gen. Morales and will appropriately respond to the criminal complaints either before the Department of Justice and or before the Ombudsman,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Pemberton flies back to US following BI deportation order

Maris Federez   •   September 13, 2020

US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration has announced that US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was successfully deported from the Philippines on Sunday morning, September 13.

Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said in an interview that the military plane that carried Pemberton took off from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at exactly 9:14 a.m. He was accompanied by members of the US military and representatives of the US embassy.

The BI official, however, stressed authorities cannot disclose the specific state of Pemberton’s destination for security reasons.

Pemberton was convicted of homicide for killing Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude in 2014.

He was released by virtue of the absolute pardon granted to him by President Rodrigo Duterte after five years into his service of a six-to-10-year prison sentence.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in the Philippines on Sunday also released an official statement on Pemberton’s release.

“All legal proceedings in the case took place under Philippine jurisdiction and law,” it read.

“Lance Cpl. Pemberton fulfilled his sentence as ordered by Philippine courts and he departed the Philippines on September 13,” it added. — /mbmf

BuCor issues release order for Pemberton

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Thursday issued the release order for convicted killer US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton following President Rodrigo Duterte’s grant of absolute pardon.

The release order signed by BuCor chief Gerald Bantag was then transmitted to the compound of the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) inside the Camp Aguinaldo where Pemberton is being detained pursuant to the Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Pemberton will be turned over to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for the process of his deportation.

The BI earlier said the deportation order was issued against Pemberton in 2015 for being an undesirable alien when he was sentenced for the 2014 murder of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude.

Pemberton was convicted of homicide for killing Laude at a motel in Olongapo City in 2014. He was sentenced to serve six to ten years in prison.

Prior to Duterte’s pardon, an Olongapo court had ordered BuCor to recompute the time that Pemberton served and to determine if he is eligible to avail the good conduct time allowance rule.

Foreign nationals who are up for deportation are required to submit clearances from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and regional trial court as proof that they have no more pending criminal or civil cases.

Once these requirements are submitted, the deportee’s flight will then be arranged and scheduled by the BI.

“Depende po yan kung maibibigay kaagad ang NBI clearance, may ticket, sa atin pag mayroo na lahat niyan automatic madali na po yan kasi implementation na lang po mayroon nang departure order. Eh mayroon ng deportation order,” BI acting spokesperson Melvin Mabulac said.

According to Guevarra, the deportation proceedings can be completed by the weekend but Pemberton’s actual date of exit from the country depends on his flight arrangements as he is a military personnel of the US. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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