DAVAO CITY, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s absolute pardon to American Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, convicted of killing transgender Jennifer Laude in 2015, drew strong condemnation from Filipinos, calling it a “subservience” to the US government.
While Laude’s family said they would still appeal the decision of a local court that declared the American soldier eligible for an early release for good conduct, the President pardoned the foreigner on Monday, September 7, citing he was not given fair treatment.
Pemberton was in the Philippines during a joint military exercise between American and Philippine troops when he murdered Laude in a motel in Olongapo City on October 11, 2014, after realizing he was dating a transgender.
then in the country for a military exercise involving Philippine and US troops, when he killed Laude at a motel in Olongapo City on October 11, 2014 after learning she’s a transwoman. The American soldier was convicted in 2015.
“We should allow him the good character presumption, kasi wala namang nag-report na Marines na nagsabing nagwawala siya, (because I haven’t received reports that this Marine has misbehaved)” Duterte said in a televised address after the news about his pardon on Pemberton.
He added: “So sabi ko kay [Executive] Secretary Medialdea, pati si ang Secretary of — pinatawag ko sila dito ngayon kanina — Menardo Guevarra, sabi ko, ‘It’s my decision to pardon. Correct me if I’m wrong, but ito ang tingin ko sa kaso. You have not treated Pemberton fairly so i-release ko. Pardon.’ Eh ang pardon walang maka-question niyan.”
(I talked to Executive Secretary [Salvador] Medialdea, and also to Secretary of – I met with them awhile ago – [Justice Secretary] Menardo Guevarra, I said, “It’s my decision to pardon. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s what I see on this. … I release him. Pardon. No one will question that.)
The Laude family lawyer Virgie Lasca-Suarez calls this pardon “a travesty of Philippine sovereignty and democracy. This is another hallmark of Philippine subservience to the US.”
Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Ferdinand Gaite called Duterte an “American lackey” over his move, saying the “connivance” between the Malacañang and the US government ensured that the appeal of the Laude family would not prosper.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes, in a Facebook post, noted that the absolute pardon came months after Duterte reversed his earlier pronouncement of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Reyes said: “The Philippine president has restored the VFA to please the Americans. He has gone even further by pardoning Pemberton who was the subject of special treatment under the VFA.”
“So much for claims of having an independent foreign policy. The US government had its way again on this issue,” Reyes added.
The LGBTQ+ group Bahaghari said that as long as Pemberton is free and “skewed” military agreements between the Philippines and the United States stand, “there can be no justice for Jennifer Laude, the LGBTQ+ community, and the Filipino people.” (davaotoday.com)