LGBT community condemns early release of US Marine in Filipino trans woman's slay

Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 03 2020 02:06 AM

MANILA - Various LGBT groups on Wednesday expressed strong condemnation over an Olongapo court's release order for a US Marine convicted for killing a Filipino transgender woman in 2014.

An Olongapo City court earlier granted Lance Cpl. Joseph Pemberton's plea for release under the good conduct time allowance rule (GCTA), years after he killed transgender woman Jennifer Laude in a hotel on Oct. 11, 2014. 

Pemberton was sentenced to 6 to 10 years in prison, after being convicted of homicide. The US Marine had admitted he hit and choked Laude when he found out that the latter had male genitals after an intimate act.

"The early release of Pemberton is another injustice to the memory of Jennifer, her family, and the country," Lagablab LGBT network said in a statement.

"Jennifer’s life is not worth six years of solo and comfortable stay in Camp Aguinaldo," the group added.

Pemberton is being held at a facility at Camp Aguinaldo, instead of regular prison, per provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States. 

For LGBT group Bahaghari, Pemberton's early release is not just an affront to the struggle of the LGBT community in the Philippines but is also an affirmation of the country's continued submission to the United States.

"Pemberton’s release is two-pronged. Firstly, it represents the unfettered violence and injustice the LGBTQ+ community continues to face. Moreover, it symbolizes the Philippine government’s continued submission to US imperialism," their statement read.

"Justice for Jennifer cannot exist without both being decisively ended," Bahaghari added.

The group said that the mere lowering of sentence from murder to homicide is in itself a huge slap to the family of Laude.

"The feeble conviction set a terrible precedent for the LGBTQ+ community and the Filipino people: under the VFA, if a US soldier brutally murders a transgender woman in Philippine soil, they would ultimately roam free after as little as 6 years of incarceration."

Netizens also took their condemnation on social media, as hashtag #JusticeForJenniferLaude trended on Twitter late Wednesday.

Last week, Pemberton's camp withdrew their appeal and accepted the US Marine's conviction. The camp has also paid Laude's kin P4.6 million in damages.

Virgie Suarez, legal counsel of the Laude camp, told ABS-CBN Teleradyo that the victim's family was devastated and shocked with the development since Pemberton has not even reached 6 years in jail.

They are questioning the materiality of good conduct of the US Marine, as Pemberton is detained away from other prisoners in Bilibid.

"There is no good conduct that can ever be attributed to him sa kanyang solong paninirahan doon. His conduct was never put to test dahil mame-measure lang yung kung paano ka nakikipagrelasyon sa ibang tao," Suarez said.

Meanwhile, Pemberton's counsel Rowena Garcia Flores said the release is in accordance with the law.

"Wala nang makakapigil sa paglaya ni Pemberton. Iyong judge she only did it in accordance of the law. The judge has no choice but to apply the law. Yan po ang law eh. Applicable din diyan ang VFA." Garcia-Flores said.