‘Justice not apology’: Critics cry amid Pemberton camp’s plan to send sorry letter to Laude family

September 10, 2020 - 5:24 PM
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Joseph Scott Pemberton
The mugshot of U.S. soldier Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton is pictured behind the gate of the Department of Justice where a LGBTQ+ group protested against his early release, for killing Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude, in Manila, Philippines, September 3, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

After being granted absolute pardon, the lawyer of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton on Wednesday divulged that her client will write an apology letter to the family of slain transwoman Jennifer Laude.

Lawyer Rowena Flores said that the American convict “has always wanted to apologize” to the family but “had no way of communicating with them.”

“He wants to get in touch with the Laude family. Knowing he’s a man of very very few words, he’d probably say ‘I’m sorry’ and nothing else. Not because it’s all he wants to say, but he doesn’t speak in long sentences,” she said in an interview with CNN Philippines on Wednesday.

Flores suggested that Pemberton should write a letter to the family since “some people” may find his verbal apology “inadequate.”

“He’s very sorry that these things happened. He would like to be a better person,” she added.

Flores said that they were “hoping” Pemberton could leave the country by Friday. He plans to finish college upon his return to the United States and take philosophy.

Bureau of Corrections Chief Gerald Bantag has already signed the convict’s release order after they received a copy of the absolute pardon.

Pemberton would then be transferred to the Bureau of Immigration to be deported “for being an undesirable alien,” an order that was issued in 2015, a year after he killed Laude.

For the legal counsel of Laude’s family, however, Pemberton’s apology would not hold such value and pointed out that it should be issued six years ago.

“Sa tagal ng pagkakulong niya, hindi niya nagawang mag apologize,” lawyer Virginia Suarez said.

“If he does apologize, sana totoo. Sana may natutunan siya sa limang taong pagkakakulong niya. Sana he finds peace sa nagawa niyang krimen,” she added.

In the United States, inmates can write letters to their victims to let them know that they have taken responsibility for their crime, according to the Washington State Department of Corrections.

The letters also give them a chance to express remorse and share steps that they have taken to change their lives.

Retired victim services manager Steve Eckstrom says that the correspondence might answer questions that only an inmate can answer, such as why he or she committed the crime. Getting those answers could potentially give a victim a sense of resolution and a chance to stop wondering about the unknown.

Man writing in a paper. (Pixabay/Free-Photos)

Meanwhile, Pemberton’s initiative to pen an apology letter after being granted absolute pardon by the president was scorned by some Filipinos.

“Sending an apology does not mean one is entitled to forgiveness. Sometimes, people apologize not for the sake of the aggrieved but for one’s own sake, thinking an apology means they’ve done what is necessary & they can finally move on. I hope Pemberton is haunted forever,” wrote a Twitter user.

Another online user believes that the initiative was only “adding insult to injury, in plain sight.”

“Sorry on paper? That would be rubbing salt to the injury. Better go (and) tell them,” wrote another online user.

“Awit. Mababalik ba ng apology letter ni pemberton ang buhay ni laude?! Kagag*han,” a Facebook user wrote.

Others thought that the move seemed to bring “high school” or “elementary” vibes, just like when an erring student is asked to write a similar note by a guidance counselor.

“Ngi na-Guidance Office ka sa school? Wtf this is b*llshit,” commented a Filipino.

“Ngii… high school ka boi?” asked a Facebook user.

“Ano ‘to!? Lakas maka-promissory note!” exclaimed another online user with facepalm emojis.

Affront to family, LGBTQ+ community 

Pemberton was granted absolute pardon by President Rodrigo Duterte following reports that the former was qualified for early release on detention based on the computation of his Good Conduct Time Allowance, although it was deferred due to a counter-appeal.

The move outraged Filipinos who expressed their condemnation on social media through the hashtags “#JusticeforJenniferLaude” and “#JunkVFA,” with the latter referring to the United States’ Visiting Forces Agreement under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

Pemberton, who met 26-year-old Laude in a bar while on break during a military exercise in Olongapo, killed her after finding out that she was a transwoman.

He was supposed to serve ten years in jail.

Commission on Human Rights focal commissioner on gender equality Karen Gomez-Dumpit condemned the granting of Pemberton’s pardon and said that it was an affront to Laude’s family and the LGBTQ+ community.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who legally represented the Laude family in the case before, initially expressed his disapproval on Pemberton’s early release but added that he respects Duterte’s “wisdom” which he said was “grounded on a broader national interest.”

The spokesperson also personally believes that the chief executive made an initiative in relation to the latter’s desire to secure a coronavirus disease vaccine from the United States once it becomes available.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that Duterte had granted absolute pardon to the serviceman in his own decision.