Philippine justice system

Freed Pemberton to Laude family: My ‘most sincere sympathy’

Mara Cepeda

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Freed Pemberton to Laude family: My ‘most sincere sympathy’

Photo from Bureau of Immigration

Bureau of Immigration

'He wishes he had the words to express the depth of his sorrow and regret,' says the camp of US soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton

US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton extended his “most sincere sympathy” to the family left behind by Jennifer Laude, the transgender woman he killed in the Philippines in 2014.

Pemberton’s camp issued the statement on Sunday, September 13, as the convicted killer of Laude was deported to the US following the absolute pardon granted to him by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. 

“To the family of Ms Jennifer Laude, he extends his most sincere sympathy for the pain he caused,” read the statement issued by Pemberton’s legal counsel Rowena Garcia Flores. 

Flores claims her client had already contemplated “the many errors in his ways” regarding the night of October 11, 2014, when Pemberton – enraged after finding out Laude had male genitals – choked her to death, arm-locked her, then dunked her head in the toilet of their motel room in Olongapo City, a red light district north of Manila. 

“He wishes he had the words to express the depth of his sorrow and regret,” said the Pemberton camp. 

The US soldier also thanked Duterte for pardoning him, saying he is “extremely grateful for this act of compassion.”

But Filipinos were up in arms over the Pemberton pardon, rekindling their calls for justice that has remained ever elusive for Laude and her family. (READ: Remembering ‘Ganda’: The tragedy of Jennifer Laude)

In 2014, an Olongapo court found Pemberton guilty of homicide, a lesser sentence than what the Laude family had demanded. The US soldier then served time in a special facility inside the Philippine military headquarters, affording him special treatment. 

Six years after his conviction, Pemberton secured a court victory that allowed for his early release due to his Good Conduct Time Allowance credits. 

The Laudes, the Department of Justice, and the Office of the Solicitor General tried to appeal the ruling. 

But their petitions were all rendered moot when Duterte decided to pardon Pemberton, which cannot be appealed. 

The President has since faced public backlash, with critics accusing the tough-talking chief executive of being subservient to the US and allowing himself to be an “American lackey.”

As Laude’s killer returned to his home country, Laude family lawyer Virgie Suarez hoped he would “find peace of mind” and learn the value of life “regardless of gender and nationality.” –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.