After sentencing, the judge ordered Pemberton to serve his sentence at New Bilibid Prison, the largest detention center in the Philippines, where more than 26,000 convicted men can sleep in overcrowded cell blocks, disease disorders and summer temperatures exceed 100 degrees. But the arrest warrant was revised a few hours later, taking into account the Visiting Forces Agreement, the 1999 legal framework that governs many aspects of the U.S. military presence in the Philippines. The agreement gives the United States considerable privileges in determining where convicted U.S. personnel are being held, and Pemberton remained in a private air-conditioned cell from a container of ships at Camp Aguinaldo, a Philippine military base, where he was monitored by two Philippine Bureau of Corrections guards and a constant rotation of U.S. service providers. Pemberton`s rank remained unchanged and he continued to receive his monthly salary of approximately $US 2,300, for a total of more than $160,000 since the killing. “Pemberton is entitled to a payment until legal proceedings, including appeals, are completed and the court upholds the conviction,” Perrine said. Duterte terminated the contract earlier this year, but two months later, and suspended the termination process. From a U.S. military perspective, visiting troop agreements (and force status agreements in counties where the military is permanently stationed) are necessary precautions in countries where the United States wants to maintain a strategic presence, including the Philippines, a key player in China`s response to the emerging power in the western Pacific. The Visiting Forces Agreement ensures that both countries are subject to a predetermined trial when a member of the service is arrested and charged with a crime, if tensions are likely to be high.
In Pemberton`s case, Schaus saw the trial as a success: Pemberton was systematically subject to Philippine law. “Whether he was imprisoned longer or served for a reasonable time, the Philippine justice system has made a judgment on this, based on its own internal standards, and I think that`s exactly what the Visiting Force Agreement would require,” Schaus said. This case has the potential to damage relations between the Philippines and the United States. The VFA, supplemented by EDCA and annual military exercises known as Balikatan, has come under further scrutiny due to the organization of several demonstrations in the Philippines and the United States, which have called on the Philippines to denounce the two agreements.  Despite Duterte`s critical attitude towards the United States, relations between the two countries remain strong. In August, the U.S. Agency for International Development donated 100 breathing apparatuses to the Philippines as part of more than $22 million in U.S. funding to help the country fight the new coronavirus. A few days earlier, the U.S. State Department authorized the sale of $126 million worth of light espionage, attack and support boats to the Philippine government. It is the latest in more than $1.5 billion in weapons that the Duterte government purchased in the United States this year, despite Human Rights Watch`s requests to Congress to block sales, citing the long history of military and human rights violations by the Philippine armed forces.