The Philippine president has pardoned a US Marine in a surprise move that will free him from imprisonment for the 2014 killing of a transgender Filipino woman that has sparked anger in the former American colony.
Teodoro Locsin Jr, the Philippine foreign secretary, tweeted that Rodrigo Duterte had “granted an absolute pardon” to L/Cpl Joseph Scott Pemberton “to do justice”, but did not elaborate.
A left-wing human rights group, Karapatan, immediately condemned the pardon as a “despicable and shameless mockery of justice and servility to US imperialist interests”.
Pemberton was convicted of homicide and has been serving a prison sentence of six to 10 years for the killing of Jennifer Laude in a motel in Olongapo city, north-west of Manila. His lawyer, Rowena Garcia-Flores, said that Pemberton had already been aware of Duterte’s decision when she called him.
“I heard the news,” Garcia-Flores quoted Pemberton, 25, as saying. “I’m very happy.” Meeting Pemberton in detention a few days ago, she said he had expressed his willingness to apologise to the Laude family, even belatedly. The presidential pardon means the immediate release of Pemberton from detention.
Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Massachusetts, was one of thousands of US and Philippine military personnel who participated in joint exercises in the country in 2014.
He was on leave after the exercises and met Laude and her friends at a bar in Olongapo, a former US navy base. Laude was later found dead in a motel room where witnesses said she and Pemberton had checked in. A witness told investigators that Pemberton said he had choked Laude after discovering she was transgender.