Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has “granted absolute pardon” to the U.S. Marine who in 2014 was convicted of murdering a transgender Filipina woman, whom he’d met at a disco and later strangled in a hotel room.
The decision to pardon 25-year-old Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton is a reversal from the president’s position just days ago, when his office announced that it intended to block his early release. Pemberton was originally sentenced to six to 12 years in prison, which was later reduced to 10 years. Last week, a court ordered his release for good behavior four years early, which was appealed.
Pemberton met Jennifer Laude at a bar in Olongapo in October 2014, where the Marines were based for joint military exercises. Laude was later found dead in a motel room, her head over a toilet with her neck broken. Pemberton, then 19, admitted to killing her after learning she was transgender.
Supporters of Laude and human rights groups are outraged by Pemberton’s sudden pardon. One organization, Karapatan, condemned the move as a “despicable and shameless mockery of justice and servility to US imperialist interests.”
Others are enraged by what seems to be special treatment of the American military by the Philippines. Harry Roque, a presidential spokesman and former attorney for the Laude family, said that, “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.”
But just last week, Roque denounced the court’s decision, saying that “Our compatriot cannot be treated like an animal,” adding that Pemberton’s “light penalty” demonstrated that “Americans continue to have the status of conquering colonials in our country.”
On Monday, he seemed to have reversed course, saying that the president “does not need to give a reason” for his decision, “because granting pardon and parole is not a function of the judiciary, but of the executive.”