U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, convicted of killing a transgender Filipina woman in 2014, was pardoned Monday by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. Pemberton admitted to choking Jennifer Laude in a hotel room after paying her for sex and finding out she was transgender. He is set to be released after serving less than six years of a 10-year sentence.
The LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines struck back at Duterte’s decision and released a scathing statement slamming the president’s actions.
"President Duterte's pardon of Pemberton sends out a loud and clear message that a Filipino trans woman's life does not matter, that it is open season for discrimination and violence against transgender people, and that American soldiers will continue to get away with murder Philippine soil," a statement signed by more than 30 organizations said Monday. "His government never served our interests nor protected our rights and lives, and today proves that only a murderer can empathize with another murderer."
Virginia Suarez, an attorney for Laude's family, also called the decision a "travesty of Philippine sovereignty and democracy."
Last week, the family of the victim protested the decision that Pemberton could be released early for showing good behavior.
A regional court ruling rekindled protests in the country that U.S. military members get special treatment under the allies’ Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows temporary deployments of U.S. forces in the country for large-scale combat exercises.
For decades, the U.S. military operated two massive military bases in the archipelago, the Subic Bay Naval Station and Clark Air Force Base. The Philippines were a U.S. colony from 1898 to 1946.
It is unclear as to when Pemberton could return to America.