By Sara Gomez Armas
Manila, Sep 7 (efe-epa) .- The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, granted a pardon on Monday to US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, convicted of the 2014 murder of Jennifer Laude, a Filipino transgender woman.
“To do justice, the President has granted an absolute pardon to Pemberton. Here at the Palace,” announced Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. via his Twitter account.
Pemberton, an American soldier who was on a troop visit mission to the Philippines in 2014, killed Laude when they were about to have sex, by drowning her in the toilet when he realized she had male genitalia.
He was found guilty of murder and sentenced in December 2015 to 10 years in prison, of which he will have only served four and a half.
Last week, the Zambales regional court – home to the Subic naval base where the crime occurred – granted Pemberton probation for good conduct under Philippine law, although his release was not carried out due to the appeal filed by the Laude family.
Laude’s lawyer said Pemberton cannot avail himself of the law that reduces penalties for good behavior, since he was in the country under the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.
The family also requested proof of the alleged “good behavior”, as Perberton has served an isolated sentence in the Camp Aguinaldo prison, the main military headquarters of the Armed Forces in Manila, where he remains imprisoned pending Duterte’s pardon.
The Justice Department – which acts as the prosecutor’s office in the Philippines – announced last week that it would use all means to stop Pemberton’s possible release, while several civil groups protested in the streets over the Zambales court’s decision.
Even the presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, criticized last week the early release of Pemberton, which he described as a “judicial overreach”, which is why the announcement of the presidential pardon was surprising Monday.
Duterte’s decision has upset civil groups and human rights defenders such as Karapatan – a national network of human rights organizations – who considered it “a despicable and shameless mockery of justice and servility to US imperialist interests.”
“While human rights defenders, activists, government critics and ordinary folks are being arrested and jailed for all sorts fabricated and flimsy charges, (…), Duterte has granted absolute pardon to a transphobic murderer, who has not shown an iota of remorse for his brutal crime,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan coordinator, said Monday. EFE-EPA