Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday granted an absolute pardon to a U.S. Marine convicted in the 2014 killing of a transgender woman, days after his office blocked a court order for the marine’s early release.
Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted of homicide in December 2015. In October the year before, he met Jennifer Laude at a bar in Olongapo, about 150 kilometers from the capital of Manila. They went to a nearby motel, and just 30 minutes after checking in, staff found Laude dead, slumped over the toilet.
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said that the pardon didn’t wipe out Pemberton’s conviction.
“The president has erased whatever punishment that Pemberton still faced,” he said, according to The New York Times. “What was never erased in the mind of the president is the conviction of Pemberton, who is a killer.”’
Roque, a former lawyer for Laude’s family, released a harsher statement last week when a trial court ordered Pemberton’s early release.
“As former Private Prosecutor for the Laude family, I deplore the short period of imprisonment meted on Pemberton who killed a Filipino under the most gruesome manner,” Roque tweeted. “Laude’s death personifies the death of Philippine sovereignty.”
Statement on the early telease of Pemberton:— Harry Roque (@attyharryroque) September 2, 2020
As former Private Prosecutor for the Laude family, I deplore the short period of imprisonment meted on Pemberton who killed a Filipino under the most gruesome manner. Laude’s death personifies the death of Philippine sovereignty
Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said the president’s pardon was meant “to do justice.”
“Cutting matters short over what constitutes time served, and since where he was detained was not in the prisoner’s control—and to do justice—the President has granted an absolute pardon to Pemberton,” tweeted Locsin.
Cutting matters short over what constitutes time served, and since where he was detained was not in the prisoner’s control—and to do justice—the President has granted an absolute pardon to Pemberton. Here at the Palace.— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) September 7, 2020
Lawyers for Laude’s family, alongside human rights advocates, criticized the move as an effort to curry favor with the U.S.
“There is so much disrespect in the manner by which Jennifer was killed — reflective of the disrespect the U.S. has for the Philippines’ democracy and sovereignty,” said Virginia Lacsa Suarez, a lawyer for Laude’s family, according to The New York Times.
Cristina Palabay, of human rights group Karapatan, told Reuters, “We view this as not only a mockery of justice but also a blatant display of servility to U.S. interest.”
For his part, Duterte defended the decision as a fair one, in a televised address Monday.
“If there is a time when you are called upon to be fair, be fair,” he said.