‘This country is not safe space for us’: LGBT groups slam absolute pardon grant to Pemberton

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 07 2020 08:08 PM | Updated as of Sep 08 2020 07:44 AM

Members of the LGBT rights advocate group BAHAGHARI, together with other youth organizations, hold an indignation rally in front of the Department of Justice headquarters in Manila on Sept. 3, 2020. The group condemned a court order for the early release of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton who was convicted for killing Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude on Oct. 11, 2014. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Members of the LGBT community in the Philippines on Monday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s grant of absolute pardon to a US Marine convicted for killing a Filipino transgender woman in 2014.

“A feeble conviction. A comfortable detention. And now, absolute pardon from no less than the President of the Republic of the Philippines. It is past time that we, the Filipino LGBTQ+ community, call Duterte what he truly is: a lapdog for the US,” Rey Salinas, spokesperson of the LGBT rights advocate group Bahaghari, told ABS-CBN News.

The grant of absolute pardon to Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was confirmed by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr., and Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who represented the family of the US soldier's victim, Jennifer Laude, during the trial of the case.

“More than ever, it is clear that he is willing to brush aside justice for our transwoman sister Jennifer Laude, and the sovereignty of the Filipino people, to uphold the interests of his true master: the United States, and its military-industrial complex,” Salinas said.

Lagablab network said that granting Pemberton absolute pardon is a betrayal to the country.

“We condemn this betrayal to the memory of Jennifer, her family, and the country,” the group said in a tweet.

The UP Babaylan, meanwhile, said that it is an attack to the transgender community.

“This is a direct attack not just to Jennifer & her family but to every trans person & every victim of our corrupt & unequal “justice” system,” the group said.

Salinas said pardoning Pemberton proves that the country is not a safe space for the LGBT community.

“Absolutely not. For as long as Duterte remains in office, and for as long as we as a country remain beholden to the interests of other nations, all of us in the Filipino LGBTQ+ community are Jennifer Laude. All of us remain unsafe in our own homeland,” Salinas said.

“Let this cruel act of injustice affirm Bahaghari’s position: for as long as Joseph Scott Pemberton walks free, for as long as skewed military agreements between the Philippines and the United States stand, for as long as there is even one US soldier on Philippine soil, there can be no justice for Jennifer Laude.”

The grant of absolute pardon comes after Pemberton, who was sentenced in December 2015 to 6 to 10 years in prison for homicide over the slay of Laude, has been declared eligible for early release by an Olongapo court.

But his release was put on hold as the family and some government officials said they are appealing the court's release order.

Laude was killed by Pemberton on Oct. 11, 2014 at a motel in Olongapo City, north of the capital Manila, after finding out that the former had male genitals after an intimate act. A forensic pathologist testified that Laude died of asphyxia.

Pemberton was in the country at the time to participate in the Philippines-US military exercises.

A hotel staff found Laude's body wrapped in a bed sheet, with her head slumped in the toilet bowl.

Pemberton was detained at a custodial facility inside the Philippine military's main camp in Quezon City, based on Manila and Washington's Visiting Forces Agreement. —with reports from Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News