A US Marine convicted of killing a transgender woman in the Philippines was released from prison Monday after President Rodrigo Duterte granted him an absolute pardon. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced the decision on Twitter, stating that the president was “cutting matters short” by releasing Lance Corporal Joseph Pemberton.
The pardon, which comes five years after Pemberton’s conviction and days after a blocked attempt at early release, was criticized as a “shameless mockery of justice” by one local human rights group. Some Filipino citizens have interpreted Duterte’s decision as a foreign policy move meant to serve US interests.
Pemberton was stationed in the Philippines for joint military exercises when he met Jennifer Laude in a nightclub in the city of Olongapo. Television footage later showed them entering a hotel room together. Pemberton later admitted to choking and drowning Ms. Laude in the hotel room after discovering that she was transgender.
Although human rights and LGBTQ+ advocates have voiced their displeasure with the pardon, this discretionary act by the president cannot be appealed or reversed.