Activists warn: Battle not over in Pemberton case, US to work for reversal
MANILA, Philippines — Activists are calling on Filipinos to remain vigilant so that that the guilty verdict against US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton for homicide will not be reversed as what happened in the case of US Marine Daniel Smith, who was found guilty of raping a Filipino woman in 2005.
“We challenge the Philippine government to stand by the Olongapo Regional Trial Court’s decision to imprison Pemberton at the [New Bilibid Prision] and assert Philippine sovereignty despite the existing Visiting Forces Agreement,”said Joms Salvador, Gabriela’s secretary-general.
“The court finds lapses in the case [that’s why he was sentenced with homicide and not murder]. Nevertheless, this is a preliminary victory,” Salvador said.
Bayan’s Renato Reyes said their group was glad that the court found Pemberton guilty beyond reasonable doubt in the killing of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude, but said Pemeberton’s prison sentence of a minimum of six years to a maximum of 12 years would be too short, considering the nature of crime.
“It is problematic in the sense that it allows for a shorter sentence. Pemberton can still appeal. The fight is not truly over as he can pull a Daniel Smith to have his conviction reversed,” Reyes said.
Reyes also challenged the Philippine government to immediately place Pemberton at the New Bilibid prison without special treatment and sought for the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement.
“The VFA…is the basis for the continuing presence of US troops in the country. Many of these soldiers go on rest and recreation trips, which are usually the conditions under which crimes are committed,” he added.
Salvador also warned the people of a possible “political maneuvering” between the US and Philippine government so that Pemberton would not have to face the full consequences of his crime.
“There is still a bigger legal and political battle to confront, especially that the VFA has vaguely worded provisions on custody and jurisdiction of criminals,” Salvador added. SFM
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