Press Release
September 5, 2020

Dispatch from Crame No. 901:
Sen. Leila M. de Lima's Reaction to Court order for early release of former US marine Scott Pemberton


After much ruckus over the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) controversy, former US marine Scott Pemberton, who was convicted for the murder of transgender Jennifer Laude, has been allowed by Olongapo City RTC, Branch 74 a free pass. Sa kabila ng bigat ng krimen na ginawa niya, parang napakadali para sa korte na palayain siya nang maaga.

This, after the revelations made in the Senate hearings on the corruption that smeared the implementation of the GCTA, and after the DOJ and DILG revised the IRR of the GCTA Law that the rumormongers blamed for the fraudulent practices that plagued the implementation thereof.

In their Motion for Reconsideration, the Laude family questions the crediting of GCTA upon Pemberton considering that the latter never even joined his fellow convicts at the New Bilibid Prison - so how can he be granted the reprieve under the law when there is little to no proof at all of his behavior or participation in rehabilitation activities while in jail?

First of all, what is the jurisdiction of the Olongapo RTC in ordering the Director-General of the Bureau of Corrections to release Pemberton? Once the Court has rendered judgment and the judgment becomes final, it ceases to have jurisdiction over the case. The case against Pemberton has already attained finality. The Olongapo RTC has no more jurisdiction over the case nor over the person of Pemberton.

Even granting for the sake of argument that Pemberton qualifies for GCTA, the proper course of action would have been to file a petition for habeas corpus. The Olongapo RTC cannot grant a writ of habeas corpus to release Pemberton because he is incarcerated outside the court's territorial jurisdiction.

The burden is on Pemberton's camp to show that the requirements and procedure in granting GCTA were duly observed. The computation and grant of GCTA is neither ministerial nor perfunctory. It follows a strict process outlined by law and is only restricted to persons duly determined to be qualified. Under R.A. No. 10592, it is the BuCor Director, BJMP Chief or Local Warden who grants GCTA upon recommendation by the Management Screening and Evaluation Committee (MSEC), not the trial courts.

Per news reports, both the BuCor and Pemberton's camp have their respective GCTA computations, and it was Pemberton's computation that was adopted by the Olongapo RTC. Irrespective of which computation is correct, the more fundamental and crucial issue is whether Pemberton is at all entitled to GCTA, in light of the peculiar circumstance of his confinement, i. e., by himself in a separate restricted facility sans any interaction with other convicts. Can he be properly credited with "good behavior" as defined under the GCTA Law's IRR? Was his case processed by the MSEC? Was there a recommendation from said body?

We're probably looking at another case here of misapplication or abuse of the GCTA Law which is unfortunate as it undermines the very wisdom and salutary philosophy behind said law, a tool for restorative justice and intended only for deserving PDLs.

This judicial act has done more than just let a guilty man free - it replaced justice with injustice and reopened wounds that started healing when Pemberton was convicted and imprisoned. ###

Access the handwritten copy of Dispatch from Crame No. 901, here:

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