Philippine President pardons US Marine for killing trans woman

The Philippine Foreign Secretary shared that Joseph Scott Pemberton was "granted an absolute pardon” for killing Jennifer Laude in 2014.

A man is escorted by police officers

In a surprise move, the controversial Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, has pardoned a US Marine who was convicted of the killing of a trans woman in 2014.

Jennifer Laude was killed by Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton in a hotel in Olongapo, near Manila. Pemberton had been on leave with a group of fellow Marines and met Laude and her friends in a bar, before the pair went back to a hotel, where the victim was later found dead.

Pemberton claimed he had strangled Laude in self defence after discovering she was transgender, a claim which was not accepted by the jury at the time. However, Pemberton was convicted of the lesser charge of homicide and not murder as the judge in the case claimed there was no evidence of cruelty.

The Philippine President, Duterte, stated his decision to pardon Pemberton was because the killer had not been treated fairly as he was denied early release for good conduct while in prison. Pemberton will now be granted immediate release.

Laude’s family had opposed early release, saying there was no evidence of Pemberton having been reformed. The human rights group, Karapatan, slammed the decision as a “despicable and shameless mockery of justice and servility to US imperialist interest.”

Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – an alliance of left-wing organisations – released the statement; “What is the basis of granting absolute pardon? Why pre-empt the court process? Why is the President in a rush to pardon the killer of Filipino transwoman Jennifer Laude? The absolute pardon, and the context and timing of the same, is a betrayal of national interest and a great injustice for the Laude family.”

Harry Roque, who had acted as lawyer for the Laude family during the case, said of the decision, “The President has erased the punishment that should be imposed on Pemberton. What the President did not erase was the conviction of Pemberton. He’s still a killer.”

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