Duterte spokesman and former lawyer of Jennifer Laude’s family Harry Roque on Thursday said he respects President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to grant Laude’s murderer Joseph Pemberton absolute pardon.

“The President and I share the same deep conviction on major policy issues affecting the country, such as charting an independent foreign policy course and zero tolerance against corruption,” he wrote in a statement released on his personal Facebook page.

Roque’s stance as former Laude family lawyer and Palace spokesman trended on social media the past few days after Duterte granted absolute pardon to Pemberton, who was convicted for killing Filipino transgender woman Laude in 2015.

“On the Pemberton issue, I respect the wisdom of the President, which is grounded on a broader national interest,” he said.

“The termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement remains, albeit the suspension is lifted for six months as we need the cooperation of the United States and other many countries in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.

Last week, Roque said Laude’s death signified the death of Philippine sovereignty.

“Hindi naman pupuwede na trinato na parang hayop iyong kababayan natin, tapik lang sa kamay ang parusa…. Iyong ginawa po ni judge na siya na ang nagdesisyon kung paano siya bibigyan ng credit for good conduct is an instance of judicial overreach,” Roque said. 

Explaining his pardon grant to Pemberton, Duterte claimed he exerted impartiality.

“I am not favoring anybody, neither Pemberton nor the [Laude] family,” he said in a televised address.

Roque said Cabinet members, including himself, would continue to serve Filipinos under Duterte’s guidance.

“Having said these, we as members of the President’s official family will be guided by [the president’s] policy pronouncements and will continuously and faithfully serve the Filipino people in its last two years to bring about the genuine change this nation truly deserves,” he said.

Pemberton only served five years in detention, but the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court ruled that his good conduct time allowance increased his time served to a total of 2,142 days or 10 years, one month and 10 days. John Ezekiel J. Hirro