POSTSCRIPT / September 22, 2020 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Lingering thoughts on Pemberton case

WHILE we talked last Tuesday of the closure of the Pemberton case, it now seems that the story of the US serviceman who killed Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude in 2014 is not yet over on the other side of the Pacific.

The presumed good conduct in jail of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton has earned him a presidential absolute pardon. Now safe on his home ground, the 25-year-old GI is reportedly being processed for discharge from the service, without having to face a court-martial.

A reader bewailed in an email what he described as an “ill-concealed” conspiracy of state actors to spring “someone rehabilitated while enjoying Stateside comfort and 24/7 security”. He said there are many loose ends hanging without anybody tucking them in.

A media colleague noted our conclusion that “the case that had roiled relations with the US” has found a “fitting closure” with the Laudes’ counsel saying “May he (the killer) find peace of mind.” He said that sounded like the Chinese saying “May you live in interesting times.”

A lawyer surmised that the US knew that Duterte would pardon Pemberton and allow his release based on his time served consisting of (a) over five years and 10 months in prison and (b) credit for good conduct time allowance (GCTA) of 1,548 days or more than four years.

He cited the admission of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who had moved for the Olongapo Regional Trial Court to reconsider its release order, that he was surprised to learn that Pemberton had withdrawn his appeal for the CA to review his conviction.

The lawyer said a pardon cannot be granted if there is a pending appeal from the convict. He said he was intrigued that Pemberton paid last August all his civil obligations to the Laude family amounting to P4.5 million, a requirement for his final release.

He noted that things fell neatly into place: the Supreme Court approval on June 2 of the withdrawal of Pemberton’s motion for consideration at the Court of Appeals, his paying all his civil liabilities, the application of his GCTA, the presidential pardon, his release from prison, and his quick deportation.

The justice secretary himself, through whom papers normally pass if presidential clemency was being processed, expressed surprise at the sudden announcement of the presidential pardon – implying that he did not know fully that something big was afoot.

In our emailed rejoinder to one lawyer who was initially skeptical of the final closure of the case and was amazed at its rapid ripening into a pardon and Pemberton’s immediate departure, we said in part:

“The case has been closed and is difficult to reopen. For one, the subject is now beyond our jurisdiction. Discussing or reviewing it will be mostly academic and partly speculative.

“I’m not privy to what took place behind the scenes. But when it was made known that Duterte told a surprised Ambassador Kim Sung in his farewell call that he was granting an absolute pardon to Pemberton, that got me thinking:

“The pardon must have been rushed for that farewell call of Sung to cap the US ambassador’s Manila tour of duty. I’m sure Sung had been following up the case kasi ganoon ang US ambassadors — they look after Americans who are in trouble in their areas of responsibility.

Si Duterte mabait din naman kay US ambassador despite his publicly slamming America. I think the absolute pardon was granted as a pabaon kay Sung. The ambassador can claim the marine’s release as one of his accomplishments in Manila.

“Actually there was no legal need for the pardon to effect the release of Pemberton. He has completed more than 10 years in prison (with the addition of his GCTA), which is enough basis for the Olongapo RTC to order his release, which it did — not on the basis of the absolute pardon but based on the fact that the convict has served fully his 10-year sentence.

“The President’s absolute pardon was superfluous as basis for setting the US serviceman free. Even without presidential clemency, Pemberton was going home free.

“I think Duterte has been looking for a way to make bawi kahit konti sa mga kabastusang ibinato na niya sa America. Kaya lang nauna na sa kanya ang Olongapo court, running purely on due process sans politics.”

Use RFIDs for seniors’ toll discounts

THE USE of radio frequency identification (RFID) electronic toll collection technology on all tollways  means more efficient and safer movement of vehicles and cashless yet more accurate accounting of payments.

Tollways with RFID systems are CAVITEx (Manila – Cavite Expressway or Coastal Road), MCX (Muntinlupa – Cavite Expressway), MMSS (Skyway or Metro Manila Skyway System), NAIAx (NAIA Expressway), NLEx (North Luzon Expressway), SCTEx (Subic – Clark – Tarlac Expressway), SLEx (South Luzon Expressway), STAR Tollway (Southern Tagalog Arterial Road), STE (Subic – Tipo Expressway [NLEx Segment 7]), and TPLEx (Tarlac – Pangasinan – La Union Expressway).

The use of RFID on tollways has prompted lawyer Romy Macalintal, the senior citizens advocate, to propose that the automatic 20-percent discount to which seniors are entitled be included in the data content of the RFID on motor vehicles registered in the name of seniors.

Macalintal said this small detail will eliminate time-consuming discussions at toll gates that sometimes ensue when seniors claim the discount due them.

As seniors are entitled to a 20-percent discount on public transportation, with more reason for discounted toll fees which take the place of transport fees. Macalintal said fare discounts are availed of using Beep cards, so there is no reason why this cannot be done using RFIDs on vehicles.

He said the 20-percent discount can be given when making a load payment (eg: a P1,000 load can be paid with only P800, or the load’s value be increased to P1,200)

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 22, 2020)

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