The Philippine government on Thursday halted the early release of a US marine jailed for killing a Filipino transgender woman in 2014, denouncing a court’s decision from earlier this week as “judicial overreach.”
Joseph Scott Pemberton was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2015 for the murder of Jennifer Laude, who was found strangled in a motel bathroom in Olongapo City, 90 kilometres north of Manila, in October 2014.
On September 1, Judge Roline Ginez Jabalde ordered Pemberton’s early release on good behaviour, despite having served only five years of his prison term in a special detention cell at US military headquarters.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the judge’s decision was counter to a Bureau of Corrections recommendation that Pemberton could not be given credit for good behaviour, adding that the Department of Justice was expected to appeal the order.
“What the judge did, to decide on her own how to give credit for good conduct, is an instance of judicial overreach,” Roque said, adding that the decision was an executive function.
“It’s like saying that the life of a Filipino does not matter. We cannot accept that someone who treated a Filipino like an animal just gets a smack on the hand as punishment,” Roque added.
At the time of the crime, Pemberton was among thousands of US forces taking part in regular military training exercises with Filipino soldiers.
Pemberton was covered by a visiting forces agreement between the Philippines and the United States, meaning that he was held in a special cell at the Philippine military’s headquarters in Manila rather than a state penitentiary.
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