Philippines-US relations

Groups call Duterte’s pardon of Pemberton a ‘direct attack’ on trans people

Groups call Duterte’s pardon of Pemberton a ‘direct attack’ on trans people
'We will never forgive Duterte for pardoning his fellow murderer Pemberton,' says the University of the Philippines Babaylan

Several LGBTQ+, youth, and rights groups condemned the government’s “complete disregard” of justice for its people, after President Rodrigo Duterte granted “absolute pardon” to United States Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton on Monday, September 7.

Condemning the pardon, the Bahaghari University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio chapter called the move a “blatant manifestation of the administration’s complete disregard of justice for its people.”

“We will never forgive Duterte for pardoning his fellow murderer Pemberton. This is a direct attack not just [on] Jennifer Laude and her family but to every trans person and every victim of our corrupt and unequal ‘justice’ system,” UP Babaylan said.

Convicted of homicide, Pemberton was sentenced to 10 years in prison last December 2015 over the killing of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude.

Up until the pardon, the Philippine government refused to implement a regional court’s release order of Pemberton. The soldier was set to be freed 4 years earlier than his scheduled release after he was recently granted full credits of Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) under Philippine law.

Human rights group Karapatan wondered how a “transphobic murderer” like Pemberton was granted absolute pardon by Duterte, while human rights defenders, activists, and government critics are arrested and jailed for “flimsy charges,” and elderly and sick prisoners continue to be denied humanitarian release during the pandemic.

“By granting absolute pardon to Pemberton, Duterte is mocking the Filipino people, who, through decades, have been violated by US military intervention in the country – with the cold-blooded killing of Jennifer Laude as the latest of such reported crimes,” Karapatan said.

They added that the pardon only shows how the President prioritizes the US government over its own people.

“Duterte is placing the interests of the US government above the Filipino people’s demands for justice and accountability by pardoning Pemberton: this is a hard slap on the LGBTQ+ community and a blatant affront to our national sovereignty,” Karapatan said.

Seeing the pardon as the government kowtowing to the United States, several Metro Manila student organizations, including the Far Eastern University Sexuality and Gender Alliance and the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan, noted how Duterte’s pardon raises questions on not only the country’s sovereignty but also the administration’s response to the LGBTQ+ community’s clamor for justice.

“We strongly express our disapproval and disappointment over the lack of transparency regarding Pemberton’s alleged good conduct and participation in Camp Aguinaldo…. This is a clear injustice for our fallen sister, Jennifer Laude, as her life was cut short while her murderer will be able to walk away,” they said in a statement.

Hoping for more protection for the LGBTQ+ community, the student organizations called for the urgent approval of the sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) equality bill.

“This is not about placing special rights for a specific minority group, but a gesture that recognizes the equal rights and protection of the LGBTQIA+ community that should have already been in place under the ambit of both national and international laws,” they said.

Groups, including Karapatan and Kabataan Party list, also appealed to the government to keep Pemberton in jail and junk the Philippines’ decades-old Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.

Sa kabila ng abuso na kaakibat ng mga nasabing kasunduan, at ang direktang atake nito sa soberanya ng bansa, kataksilan sa bahagi ni Duterte ang hindi pagpapabasura nito, at dagdag lamang sa kasalanang ito sa mamamayan ang pagbibigay ng pardon kay Pemberton,” Kabataan Party list said.

(In the face of abuses associated with the said agreement, as well as its direct attack on the nation’s sovereignty, Duterte’s refusal to junk this agreement is a betrayal. Giving a pardon to Pemberton only adds to these offenses against the people.) –