Philippines deports US Marine in transgender killing
A US Marine convicted of killing a Filipino transgender woman was deported Sunday after a presidential pardon cut short his detention in a case that renewed outrage over a pact governing American military presence in the Philippines.
Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton left a message to President Rodrigo Duterte and to the family of Jennifer Laude, who he was convicted of killing in 2014 after finding out that she was a transgender in a motel northwest of Manila.
The message’s content will be released after his departure, his lawyer, Rowena Garcia-Flores, said.
Philippine immigration officers and American security personnel escorted the 25-year-old Marine from his cell in the main military camp in metropolitan Manila to the airport, where he boarded a military aircraft. Ahead of the flight, he was subjected to a coronavirus test, which turned negative, immigration spokeswoman Dana Sandoval told The Associated Press.
“He’s been successfully deported,” Sandoval said.
On Monday, Duterte granted an “absolute and unconditional pardon” to Pemberton in a move that caught many by surprise. The Philippine leader has long been a vocal critic of US security policies while reaching out to China and Russia.
Duterte’s pardon was condemned by left-wing and LGBTQ groups. The debate has brewed whether the Marine, whose detention was arranged under the treaty allies’ Visiting Forces Agreement, can be covered by a Philippine law that grants shorter jail terms to ordinary prisoners for good conduct.
The Regional Trial Court in Olongapo city, which handled Pemberton’s case, ruled that the law covers Pemberton and ordered authorities on Sept. 1 to release him early for good conduct. But Laude’s family and the Department of Justice separately appealed, blocking his early release from a maximum prison term of up to 10 years. He has served about half of that.
Duterte said he granted the pardon because Pemberton was not treated fairly after his early release, which he said the Marine may have deserved, was blocked.
The court order rekindled perceptions that American military personnel who run afoul of Philippine laws can get special treatment under the Visiting Forces Agreement, or VFA, which provides the legal terms for temporary visits by US forces to the country for large-scale combat exercises.
Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Massachusetts, was one of the thousands of American and Philippine military personnel who participated in joint exercises in the country in 2014.