Calls for justice for Laude resurface as Filipinos mark 1st anniversary of pardon to Pemberton

September 7, 2021 - 9:07 PM
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Various groups picket at Commission on Human Rights on September 11 as they denounced the pardon given to US Marine L/Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton (The STAR / Michael Varcas)

Calls for justice for the death of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude filled Twitter conversations on Tuesday, a year since President Rodrigo Duterte granted “absolute pardon” to US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton.

Pemberton was convicted of homicide for killing Laude in 2014.

READ: Duterte grants Jennifer Laude’s killer Pemberton an absolute pardon

In 2014, he met 26-year-old Laude in a bar while on break during a military exercise in Olongapo. Pemberton later killed her after finding out that she was a transwoman.

He was supposed to serve ten years in jail.

The first anniversary of the pardon was condemned anew by Filipinos on social media.

The hashtags “#JusticeforJenniferLaude” and “#JunkVFA” resurfaced, with the latter referring to the United States’ Visiting Forces Agreement under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

Pemberton’s absolute pardon

On Sept. 7, 2020, Duterte granted absolute pardon to Pemberton following reports that Pemberton was qualified for early release on detention based on the computation of his Good Conduct Time Allowance.

READ: Olongapo RTC orders Pemberton’s release

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who was the private prosecutor for the Laude family during the trial before, initially expressed his disapproval of the US serviceman’s early release.

However, Roque added that he respects Duterte’s “wisdom” which he said was “grounded on a broader national interest.”

The spokesperson also believed that the chief executive made an initiative in relation to the latter’s desire to gain access to COVID-19 vaccines being developed by American drugmakers.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that Duterte’s surprise move was “solely his decision.”

“From where I was sitting this afternoon at the presidential residence, I saw that the president’s decision to grant pardon to Pemberton was solely his own,” the DOJ chief said.

Being granted absolute pardon means “the total extinction of the criminal liability of the individual to whom it is granted without any condition whatsoever resulting in the full restoration of his civil rights,” according to a primer by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Parole and Probation Administration.

It also “removes all disabilities resulting from the conviction,” apart from the crime being completely removed from the individual’s record.

In a statement sent through their lawyer Virginia Suarez, Jennifer’s mother Julita Laude expressed her grievances over the president’s decision to grant the US marine an absolute pardon.

“Sumama ang loob ko dahil ang buong akala ko, na maging ang pangulo na siya ang tumulong sakin na sabi niya ipaglaban at siya pa mismo nagbigay ng tulong pinansyal noon,” she said.

Pemberton was deported from the Philippines at 9:14 a.m on September 13 last year and flown out on a US military plane.