Convicted U.S. Marine given ‘absolute pardon’ . . .
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed on Monday that American Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton will be pardoned for his 2014 murder of Jennifer Laude, a Filipina transgender woman. The announcement came days after the Philippines government said that it was reconsidering Pemberton’s early release ordered by an Olongapo city court on account of “good behaviour.” Rights groups and nationalists alike criticized the decision, saying that it is a slap to the LGBTQ+ community, an affront to national sovereignty, and a political accommodation of the United States. The government has also confirmed that it will deport Pemberton to the U.S. following his release.
Controversial Visiting Forces Agreement . . .
In 2014, Pemberton was in the Philippines to participate in regular military exercises under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). He visited the red light district in Olongapo city, where he met Jennifer Laude at a bar. In his 2015 trial, Pemberton confessed to killing Laude after discovering that she had male genitals and was convicted of homicide and sentenced to six-to-12 years. Pemberton’s pardon sparked further anti-American sentiment in the Philippines over the VFA and U.S. military bases. Activists criticize the VFA for permitting U.S. jurisdiction over crimes committed on Philippine soil.
Protests in the Philippines and the diaspora . . .
The news of Pemberton’s release sparked protests both in the Philippines and the diaspora. Groups like the Karapatan Alliance and the Malaya Movement have questioned the pardon, noting the disparity in Pemberton’s treatment in the Philippine legal system while thousands of Filipinos do not have access to legal services and remain in detention. The issue of Laude’s murder was also highlighted in Canada during the 2018 film screening of Call Her Ganda at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, which documents the 2015 trial. Canada itself also has a stated commitment toward promoting LGBTQ+ rights as part of its foreign policy.