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US marine who strangled a trans woman to death while serving in the Philippines gets presidential pardon from Rodrigo Duterte

Nick Duffy September 7, 2020
Jennifer Laude Joseph Scott Pemberton

Joseph Scott Pemberton (L) and Jennifer Laude (R)

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has officially pardoned a US marine who was jailed for strangling a transgender woman to death.

Joseph Scott Pemberton, who had been stationed in the country for a training exercise, was serving 10 years for the October 2014 killing of Filipina trans woman Jennifer Laude.

The trained US marine claimed he was acting in “self-defence” by strangling Laude to death after discovering she was transgender, having met her at a local bar and taken her back to a motel.

Pemberton, who had been seeking early release on grounds of good behaviour, is now expected to walk free thanks to a pardon from Duterte, who has a lengthy anti-LGBT+ record.

A spokesperson for Duterte, Harry Roque, confirmed to The Washington Post the leader “had erased the jail term that Pemberton should have served”.

US marine Joseph Scott Pemberton has been pardoned by the Philippines president
US marine Joseph Scott Pemberton has been pardoned by the Philippines president

Roque, who once served as a lawyer for Laude’s family, added: “He can go home because he has been pardoned.”

The killing of Laude and trial of Pemberton has been a years-long story in the Phillipines, igniting angry protests on several occasions.

Laude’s family and LGBT+ campaigners in the country had previously vowed to oppose the early release of Pemberton, arguing there is no evidence he deserves a commuted sentence.

Phillipines nationalists have also questioned the decision.

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte
Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

Renato Reyes of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said: “What is the basis of granting absolute pardon to… Pemberton? Why pre-empt the court process? Why is the president in a rush to pardon the killer of Filipino transwoman Jennifer Laude?

“The absolute pardon, and the context and timing of the same, is a betrayal of national interest and a great injustice for the Laude family.”

Trump-style Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has anti-LGBT record.

The Philippines is one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in Asia, with a 2014 poll finding that 73 per cent of Filipinos believe homosexuality should be accepted.

However, the country’s abrasive president Rodrigo Duterte is often likened to Donald Trump for his often obscene outbursts, commonly targeting LGBT+ people.

He has previously smeared his election opponents as gay and joked about conversion therapy.

In 2017, Duterte claimed that criminals are beyond help because prisons turn people gay.

He said:  “[Convicts] are already monsters in the sense that they are incapable of establishing a relationship with a woman.

“They develop aberration of the mind. They do not want to get out of prison because they get free food there…and they have lovers, they want to return to prison [to be] with their lovers.”

In 2016, then-US president Barack Obama cancelled a meeting with Duterte after he made homophobic comments about then-US ambassador Philip Goldberg.

Duterte had said: “I had an argument with their gay ambassador, the son of a whore. He p***ed me off.”

More: Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte

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