House of Representatives

‘American lackey:’ Opposition lawmakers blast Duterte for pardoning Pemberton

Mara Cepeda

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‘American lackey:’ Opposition lawmakers blast Duterte for pardoning Pemberton

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City on August 17, 2020. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO


(UPDATED) 'Walang ibang maglalarawan sa ginawang ito ni Pangulong Duterte kundi gawain ng isang tuta ng Kano,' says Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite

Opposition legislators did not mince words against President Rodrigo Duterte for pardoning Joseph Scott Pemberton, the United States Marine who killed transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude. 

In a statement on Monday, September 7, Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite called the President an “American lackey” and accused the Philippines of “conniving” with the US government.

“Tuta ng Kano! Walang ibang maglalarawan sa ginawang ito ni Pangulong Duterte kundi gawain ng isang tuta ng Kano. An act of an American lackey!” Gaite said.

(American lackey! There’s no other way to describe what President Duterte did other than it’s an act of an American lackey!)

The progressive lawmaker then said Duterte’s “absolute pardon” disregards the pending appeal of Laude’s family against the early release granted to Pemberton on account of his Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA). 

“There is a pending appeal in the court from the family of Jennifer Laude, but this connivance between Malacañang and the United States government ensured that this appeal would not prosper. Inunahan ng kanilang sabwatan ang desisyon ng korte, at tuluyan nilang ibinasura ang sigaw ng mga kaanak, kaibigan at taga-suporta ni Jennifer para sa katarungan,” Gaite said. 

(Their connivance preempted the decision of the court, and they threw away the call for justice of Jennifer’s relatives, friends, and supporters.)

Pemberton – who was part of an American team that joined military exercises with Filipino troops – had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2015 over the killing of Laude in 2014. 

The US soldier was about to have sex with Laude at a motel in Olongapo City, but he was enraged after discovering that she had male genitals. Pemberton then arm-locked Laude and dunked her head in the toilet bowl of their motel room. (READ: Remembering ‘Ganda’: The tragedy of Jennifer Laude)

Last week, an Olangapo court ruled to free Pemberton 4 years earlier than his scheduled release due to his GCTA credits.

The Laude family immediately petitioned to bar Pemberton’s early release, but this is now moot following Duterte’s absolute pardon of the US Marine. (READ: Duterte defends pardon: ‘You have not treated Pemberton fairly’)

Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman, the first transgender woman to be elected into Congress, also questioned the “special treatment” for Pemberton.

Bilang isang Filipino, tinatanong ko ang aking sarili kung bakit kailangang mangyari ito at kung bakit binigyan ng special treatment ang isang banyaga. Marami sa ating mga kababayan ang nagkasala sa batas ngunit hindi naman nabigyan ng parehong pagkakataon. Hindi dapat ganito. Do we deserve less?” Roman said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, September 8.

(As a Filipino, I ask myself why this has to happen and why special treatment was given to a foreigner. Many of our countrymen have broken the law but have not been given the same privilege. Things should not be this way. Do we deserve less?)

‘Affront to PH sovereignty’

Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas also slammed the presidential pardon granted to Pemberton, calling it an “affront to our sovereignty.”

“Pemberton’s guilt in the death of Jennifer Laude is loud and clear. This move by President Duterte is an outright disregard for the respect of the Philippine justice system and an affront to our sovereignty. Pardoning such heinous crime is clearly an evidence of betrayal of public trust,” Brosas said in a statement. 

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman also said there “appears to be no just and valid reason” for Duterte to pardon Pemberton.

“The President should have considered the sentiments of the family of the victim, Jennifer Laude, as well as the escalating protests against the projected premature release of Pemberton and upholding Philippine sovereignty by making convicted US military personnel serve their full sentence,” said the veteran congressman. 

Bilateral ties between the Philippines and US have been strained under Duterte, as the firebrand leader repeatedly lashed out at Washington for “interfering” in his controversial drug war. 

Duterte has been pivoting towards China instead, with critics accusing him of selling out in favor of getting loans and grants from the Asian economic giant.

Duterte has also become notorious for his defeatist view on the increased Chinese militarization of the West Philippine Sea, a part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines but which China is falsely claiming as its own. –

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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.