MANILA - The family of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude considers the conviction of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton a "bittersweet" ruling.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 handed down a guilty verdict against Pemberton, lawyers Harry Roque and Virgie Suarez, counsels for the Laude family, lamented that the US Marine should have been convicted for murder instead.
"This is not of course a complete justice, but we have to recognize that there is victory here," said Suarez.
Roque questioned why the court ruled that there was no evidence of cruelty in the slay of Laude when she was supposedly clearly brutally killed.
Laude was found dead inside the bathroom of Celzone Hotel in Barangay West Tapinac, Olongapo City on October 12, 2014, with her head slumped in the toilet bowl.
Pemberton was the last person seen with Laude before her body, which was wrapped in a bed sheet, was found.
The court ruled that Laude died of drowning.
READ: From motel to court: The Jennifer Laude slay case
"Kung hindi po yan pagmamalabis o cruelty, hindi ko po alam ang tawag diyan," Roque said.
Roque also expressed extreme disappointment over the court's ruling saying the prosecution failed to establish that there was aggravating circumstances of abuse of superior strength and treachery so as to convict Pemberton of murder.
He noted that there was clearly abuse of superior strength, with Pemberton being a trained Marine.
Roque also lamented the court's decision that Pamberton's killing of Laude fell under the mitigating circumstances of "passion and obfuscation."
Pemberton admitted that he choked and hit Laude during an exchange of blows after he discovered that she was a transgender and that a fellow male had given him oral sex.
READ: What Pemberton told US Marines on transgender's death
"Sa akin po, malinaw ang ebidensya nagkaroon po ng attraction si Pemberton kahit ano man ang kasarian ni Jennifer, at hindi tama na ginawang mitigating circumstance pa di umano yung bigotry na in-exhibit niya laban sa isang transgender, dahil yung bigotry na yun ay naging dahilan para mapatay nga itong si Jennifer," Roque said.
He said the court's ruling would set a "dangerous" precedent and would even encourage hate crimes against members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.
"Para bang, 'Okay, naiintindihan namin ang galit niyo laban sa LGBT kaya kapag nakapatay kayo, mas mababang parusa ang makukuha niyo.' Mali po yun sa aking pananaw.
"Any bigot can now claim, 'Ay, nawala ako sa sarili nung nalaman kong bakla o tomboy yung aking kasiping.' Di po tama yun," he added.
He said they would raise the matter before the Supreme Court, calling it a violation of the right of equality.
Pemberton was sentenced to minimum of 6 years to maximum of 12 years imprisonment, which, Roque claimed, is too short.
The mother and sisters of Laude, likewise, expressed the same sentiments.
"Nagpapasalamat ako sa lahat. Nasiyahan naman ako dun sa pagbasa dahil inisa-isa, hinimay-himay talaga lahat... Pero hindi ako kuntento dun sa sinabi na anim na hanggang sampung (sic) taon. Bakit ganun?" said Laude's mother, Julita.
"Ang importante makukulong siya. Hindi nasayang yung pinaglalaban namin. Makukulong siya. Hindi nasayang ang buhay ng anak ko na hindi niya mapagbabayaran," added Julita in tears.
The court ordered Pemberton, who is now a "national prisoner," be temporarily committed to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.
However, the Laude family's lawyers pointed out that Pemberton's American guards and escorts seemed to disagree with the decision, refusing to turn over the US Marine to Philippine authorities.
"Ang hindi ko matanggap na baka naman isang araw lang, dalawang araw, makita yan si Pemberton nagsho-shopping na pala dun sa US pag hindi yan isu-surrender," Julita said.