No deal with US drug makers to trade Pemberton for COVID vax, says Health Dep’t

Convicted killer Joseph Scott Pemberton with Bureau of Corrections and Immigration officers in Camp Aguinaldo. <i>Photo: Bureau of Corrections </i>
Convicted killer Joseph Scott Pemberton with Bureau of Corrections and Immigration officers in Camp Aguinaldo. Photo: Bureau of Corrections

Not one American-based drug manufacturer has asked for the absolute pardon of convicted killer Joseph Scott Pemberton so that Filipinos would be given access to a successful COVID-19 vaccine, the Department of Health said today.

“[W]e have not received any conditions of that sort based from the discussions we’ve had from the different manufacturers from the U.S., and like we’ve always said, all vaccines that will enter [the country] — to ensure that it will be safe and effective against COVID-19, and will benefit to the population — has to go through our regulatory process,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual briefing, in English and Filipino.

Vergeire’s statement comes shortly after Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque yesterday said he believed President Rodrigo Duterte absolved the United States Marine from the 1994 killing of Jennifer Laude to secure a vaccine for the Philippines, a decision that Roque, a former lawyer of the Laude family, said he “didn’t have a problem” with.

Russia has already offered the controversial Sputnik V vaccine to the Philippines, which has yet to clear final clinical trials. Duterte also said in July that he had negotiated with China to prioritize the Philippines should Beijing invent a successful vaccine.

Read: Spokesman Roque believes Duterte pardoned Pemberton to access US-made COVID vax

Duterte said he pardoned Pemberton because the Marine was treated unfairly, but did not offer any proof. The president’s Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo yesterday defended him by saying it was normal for Philippine presidents to pardon foreign criminals, as was the case with President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, Jr.

“Presidente Aquino pardoned an American, and you know what his crime was? Drugs. This one [Pemberton] is just homicide,” Panelo said in English and Filipino, a statement which drew widespread ire on social media.

The 25-year-old’s release was signed by the Bureau of Corrections yesterday, and the convicted Marine is under the custody of the Bureau of Immigration since this morning. Pemberton is scheduled to be deported to the U.S. on Sept. 16.


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