#JusticeForJenniferLaude: Filipinos decry pardon for US soldier Pemberton

Filipinos online lambasted President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to grant "absolute pardon" to United States Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, as announced by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr on Monday, September 7.

Pemberton, who was convicted of homicide, was earlier sentenced to 10 years in prison over the killing of trans woman Jennifer Laude in 2014.

She died of asphyxia by drowning and strangulation, her head dunked in a toilet bowl.

A 2014 investigation report of the Olongapo police showed Laude's killing was a "crime of hatred." His discovery that Laude was "gay," the report said, “prompted him to kill the victim.”

The hashtag #JusticeForJenniferLaude landed the top spot of Twitter's trending topics in the Philippines on Monday, shortly after Locsin made the announcement on the platform.

Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago took to social media to slam the decision and said, "Not only is this a betrayal of Jennifer Laude's memory and the cries for justice, it is also an affront to our sovereignty and the dignity of the Filipino people."

Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay called the move an "unpardonable betrayal."

Content creator Kerwin King pointed out, "a murderer freed another murderer."

Bar 2019 topnotcher Mae Diane Azores likened the pardon to a "candy" handed over easily to "foreign murderers."

Meanwhile, some called out the administration's "tolerance" of hate crime and gender-based violence.

The move resurrected the long-standing discussion on LGBTQ+ acceptance in the country, and the call to pass the SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression) equality bill, which protects any person from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. The bill languished in the Senate in 2019. 

Some also called out Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque for condoning the President's decision. He used to be a legal counsel of the Laude family.

In a statement, Roque said that while the decision granted Pemberton freedom, Duterte did not clear Pemberton's conviction.

Prior to the pardon, Pemberton had been granted full credits of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law, which allows for early release of convicts according to good behavior record. This prompted the question as to whether or not Pemberton, an American soldier, is even covered by the law. 

Here's what others had to say about the decision:

– Rappler.com

Sofia Virtudes

Sofia Virtudes is a digital communications specialist for Rappler. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Development Communication from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. She tweets at @fiavirtudes.