Pemberton Pardon: Analysis, Speculation and Conclusion

Diliman Way

With Homobono A. Adaza

“The country did not treat him (Pemberton) fairly.” – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

“The pardon of Pemberton was ‘one of numerous circumstances where the government favors the powerful.’” – PDI news story quoting Vice-President Leni Robredo.

Nobody questions the power of the President to grant a pardon. That is provided under section 19, Article VII of the Constitution. So the President Duterte pardon of US Marine Lance Corporal Scott Pemberton is legal and constitutional.

The howls and protests over the Pemberton pardon has something to do with other issues – fairness and justice, colonial thinking, giving foreigners more favors than Filipino citizens, inability to grant the same privilege to thousand of Filipino inmates who are more entitled to presidential pardon than Pemberton, the dysfunctional judicial system and the real reason for the Pemberton pardon.

Initial questions and analysis: So many are asking questions about the Pemberton pardon. Many are condemning the President for granting Pemberton an absolute pardon.

The questions are recurrent and persistent. People are asking the President to be transparent. If this were a personal matter, transparency is a given. Duterte is fond of sharing his killing and libidinous experiences with the public even without being asked. But this is not just merely a personal matter – this presidential decision has something to do with affairs of state though the Duterte decision may have something to do with his personal relationship with American public officials and reshaping his relationship with American institutions with a view to insuring his survival as President.

Relationship:To say the least, his relationship with American officials and institutions is not only sour, it is fractured. He has been subject to several condemnatory resolutions of the American Congress which do not only affect him but the country as well. His official and personal behavior is not consistent with American democratic values. He is more of a de facto dictator than a democratic leader.

Considering the devastation of the Chinese corona virus of our country, his deteriorating international image and his heavily-damaged relationship with America and its institutions, Duterte must have realized he should make amends, if his name is to be worth a cent at the end of his term – and it’s disturbingly near.
Duterte has already made an embarrassing retreat on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Another gesture of goodwill could possibly make a difference, especially considering the timing – the American ambassador is leaving his post in Manila, Donald Trump is facing serious trouble in his re-election, and Duterte is badly-battered in social media. The timing is almost perfect for America and its ailing institutions but it is far from perfect on the home front. There is no split of reaction of Filipinos to the Pemberton pardon. The condemnation is overwhelming, it is almost unanimous.

The Duterte trolls have been silenced – very unusual behavior for the fattened trolls and the Duterte fanatics. They must have realized that the desultory Dutertism is not forever. They must be beginning to skin their eyes for the nearest exit into the world of Balimbingism, of which they are at home and so fondly familiar.

Reactions: Vice-President Leni Robredo says, it is unjust and unfair to similarly situated Filipinos who have been rotting in congested and inhuman jails all these years. The Laude family, of course, is flabbergasted. The Laude lawyer is enraged because she thought President Duterte was on their side.

The LGBT community is demonstrating and protesting. The human rights advocates are, of course, dismayed, to say the least.

But these are familiar reactions to many Duterte decisions. Former Member of the Cabinet, Jesus “Jess” Dureza, a creditable singer who knows better the Duterte mind and heart, is possibly singing now, Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets, or Whatever Lolo Wants, Lolo Gets, to be more precise.

All these reactions are reassuring – that there are a number of Filipinos who are intelligent, sane and courageous. This combination among us is not easy to come by these days. This means that there is hope for the future, if this type of reaction continues. There is light at the end of the tunnel in 2022.

Speculation: What is the real reason for the pardon? Duterte mentions his possible reason for the pardon – Pemberton has been treated unfairly. But Pemberton has been given special treatment all the way –special detention facility with all needs attended to as expected of an American marine. So the Duterte statement runs counter to the facts. His admission, though defies the reality, is self-accusatory because, considering the situation, the unfairness could only come from people in government and Duterte is the government. This is a strange and weird behavior coming from President Duterte.

In the last four years as President, I have been trying hard to monitor Duterte’s words, actions and activities. He has been confessing to killings, libidinous and immoral behavior, giving favors to China and the Chinese against our national interest; cursing priests, bishops, the Pope and foreign leaders and institutions but I never heard him as much as whisper a public apology.
Duterte even called the Christian God stupid but he never apologized for this scandalous blasphemy.

Duterte’s claim of unfairness as the reason for the pardon does not make any sense – probably it does to the NCMH (National Center for Mental Health), but not to a rational and sane world. So there must be a real reason for the Pemberton pardon because to say that there is no other is to confirm the accusation of actress Agot Isidro about the psychological state of the mind of President Duterte.

Even the presidential spokesman Harry Roque hazarded his own speculation it may have something to do with acquiring, at first opportunity, the vaccine against the Chinese corona virus from the States. That’s a lot of nonsense because, according to a head of an office in this country, the Philippines has already entered into an agreement with vaccine companies from Russia, China, the US and some European companies.

So what is really the real deal behind the pardon, considering that based on the behavior of Duterte as President, most of the time, he does not do anything unless it is a deal for him.

Read deal: To expect admissions from Duterte and Trump about the real reason for the Pemberton pardon is to say that both of them have gone to the moon. Probably, in the mind but not in reality! So what everyone can do is to speculate on the real reason. My speculation is as good as any. Yours can even be better. But just for the benefit of intellectual exercise, I hazard that there are only two possible reasons why Duterte signed the Pemberton pardon as an icing to the suspension of the VHA withdrawal – an assurance that America will not encourage or support Duterte’s ouster before the end of his term and a promise to maintain the presence of the American military flotilla at the West Philippine and surrounding areas.

These are the possible reasons for the Pemberton pardon. As I said, my analysis and speculation could just as good as that of anyone else.

A mind game: President Duterte may not be that intelligent, much less intellectual, but you have to admit the fellow is street smart. He knows the ordinary Filipino by heart and the game of survival like an art. This explains why he was mayor of Davao City for twenty years. These are not easy things to do. But it takes more these to be a good President and up to this point, to call him a good President is to dishonor the word.

Thus far, Duterte has been playing a mind game with Filipinos and those he is dealing with – the Chinese and the Americans. His behavior towards China and America may totally be characterized as colonial mentality. But who is the President of this country, from Marcos to Duterte, not guilty of colonial mentality? They are all prisoners of their colonial minds. Why? All of them are traditional politicians and none of them is a revolutionary thinker. Probably the one who came closest to the fringes of revolutionary thinking is President Carlos P. Garcia who had as his presidential first principle – the Filipino First Policy.

But a mind game, like any other game, has an end. Adolf Hitler thought he outwitted the English Prime Minister and Britain with a treaty Chamberlain characterized as peace in our time. Hitler outmaneuvered Chamberlain but not Britain with Winston Churchill. General Battista of Cuba thought he would be a permanent leader in his country with the support of America. But his game failed. He was outmaneuvered by Fidel Castro and joined the ranks of ousted dictators.

That’s the law of life. The human factor is an imponderable factor. It maybe easy to predict the results of the game but the test is not in the prediction but in the outcome. The most stunning example of the imponderability of the human factor is the result in the men’s and women’s single finals in the U.S. Tennis Championship. The experts predicted it would be a walk away for Novak Djokovic to retain his title last year but he was ousted by a younger upstart long before the semi-finals. Two younger men battled for the championship – Dominic Thiem beat Alexander Zverev.

In the women’s finals, it was a given that Serena Williams will retain her title. She was ousted by Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals but Azarenka was beaten by 2019 title-holder, Naomi Ozaka, in the finals.

Duterte’s fate: As of the moment, President Duterte has no laudable legacy to talk about. He has committed several horrendous errors of judgment to last him several lifetimes. His legacy at this point in time may be best described in this memorable line in Marc Antony’s oration in Julius Caesar, “the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.”

But as a Christian, I am always bullish about the future. As I keep on saying – victory or defeat is determined at the edge of the grave. Two years is enough time for President Duterte to turn out into a new leaf – undo the serious and scandalous errors that he has done. This way, if he final learn to be President, instead of mentally and behaviorally remaining as a mayor of a city, he might end his term not with a Pemberton pardon or a killing field, but in the famous line of the poet, T. S. Eliot, “with a bang, not with a whimper.” Homobono A. Adaza

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