Pemberton hopes to apologize to Laude family, bares plans after Duterte’s pardon — lawyer

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 9)— US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton has always wanted to apologize to the family of slain Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude, and is hoping to get in touch with them following his pardon, his lawyer said Wednesday.

“You know he has always wanted to apologize to the Laude family, except that he had no telephone. He had no way of communicating with them; he doesn’t know the email address or whether he could even send such kind of letter,” Pemberton’s counsel Atty. Rowena Flores told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

“Now that he has been pardoned, he does want to get in touch with them,” she added.

On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte granted Pemberton absolute pardon after spending less than six years in jail for killing the 26-year-old transgender woman. In October 2014, Laude was found lifeless— naked with her head submerged in an Olongapo City motel room’s toilet after a night out with the then 19-year-old US marine.

The President’s move was met with a flurry of criticisms from netizens, rights groups, and even public officials— who lamented the “injustice” it brings to Laude’s loved ones.

Laude’s kin were meanwhile left “shocked” and devastated upon hearing the news.

The family’s lawyer, Atty. Virgie Suarez, argued Pemberton had the chance to say sorry even during his time in prison.

Sa tagal ng pagkakulong niya, hindi man lang niya nagawang mag-apologize? Alam mo si Nanay Julita, isa 'yun sa sentimyento niya dati pa e, sabi niya, ni hindi ka man lang humingi ng tawad sa lahat ng mga nagawa mo,” Suarez in an interview with the same program.

“If he does apologize, sana totoo. Sana talaga may natutunan siya sa limang taon na pagkakakulong niya. At sana talaga he finds peace in his mind dahil doon sa nagawa niyang krimen,” she added.

[Translation: All that time he was in prison, he never even got to apoligize? You know her mother, that’s one of her sentiments for so long, she said, you didn’t even apologize for what you did. But if he does apologize, I hope it’s real. I hope he learned something from his 5-year imprisonment. And I hope he finds peace in his mind because of the crime he committed.]

Moving on?

Pemberton’s lawyer, on the other hand, bared that the detained marine was “relieved” upon hearing Duterte’s decision, and is likewise hoping to move on once he's set free.

Kung maibabalik niya lang po yung panahon, siyempre he would wish these things never happened, and he would like to become a better person for the rest of his life… He would like to set off and do good things para po maging kapaki-pakinabang na member ng society and to clear his name,” Flores said.

[Translation: If he could turn back time, of course he would wish these things never happened, and he would like to become a better person for the rest of his life… He would like to set off and do good things so he can be a useful memebr of the society and to clear his name.]

Pemberton is also hoping to go back to school and perhaps take a college degree in philosophy, Flores added.

The camp also expressed hope that Pemberton could be released by Friday, but Flores said they are still complying with requirements and are still gathering the needed documents, including a written copy of Duterte’s pardon order.

Unjust treatment?

Explaining his decision to grant the pardon, Duterte had said it was unfair to keep Pemberton detained, and argued it was not the latter’s fault that there was no proper record of his exemplary behavior while alone in a special detention cell in Camp Aguinaldo.

The pronouncement did not sit well with critics and netizens, who have long slammed the supposed “special treatment” given to the foreign national.

However, Flores claimed her client also had his share of unjust treatment while in detention. For one, she said Pemberton was detained even before a complaint was formally filed against him.

““An ordinary Filipino being subjected to a preliminary investigation remains free. He can travel all around the world because there is no charge against him, there is no probable cause against him,” Flores said.

“But in this case, Marilou Laude filed her criminal complaint on October 15, 2014. But as early as October 13 or two days before she filed a complaint, Pemberton was already placed in jail… He was already jailed without a case having been filed against him,” she added, but did not detail the nature of the arrest.

READ: Revisiting the Jennifer Laude murder case

International news websites had reported that Pemberton was initially detained at the USS Peleliu, the ship where his battalion was assigned to, which was docked at the Subic Bay Port.