Pemberton pardon an 'affront' to LGBTQI community: rights body

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 09 2020 02:15 PM

Bahaghari and various other multi-sectoral groups gather at the Boy Scout Circle in Quezon City to protest and condemn the absolute pardon President Rodrigo Duterte granted US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted for the slay of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's grant of absolute pardon to convicted killer US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton is an "affront" to the LGBT community, the Commission on Human Rights said Wednesday.

Duterte had pardoned Pemberton, found guilty of homicide for the October 2014 slay of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude, just as the justice department planned to question his early release that a court granted him due to supposed good conduct. 

The CHR recognizes Duterte's power to grant pardon but said there was "still an obligation to account for the exercise of the pardon, to wield this power with prudence and sensitivity to the plight of victims," CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said.

"Granting a presidential pardon to such a felon is an affront to the LGBTQI community. It is an affront to the Laude family and the LGBTQI community," she said in a statement.

"Pemberton’s express pardon exhibited double standards, lack of fairness, and the absence of empathy for the LGBTQI community," it said, a reference to how the pardon skipped the usual process. 

Under usual procedure, an application for pardon goes through the Board of Pardons and Parole and then elevated to the DOJ. The justice department then endorses the application to the President. 

Pemberton did not apply for pardon. 

Members of the LGBT community in the Philippines face "systemic barriers in accessing justice" as they continue to be victims of violence and harassment, Gomez-Dumpit said.

"The Commission on Human Rights joins the call for the respect and protection of the rights of the LGBTQI community, especially those who continue to face abuse, discrimination, and indignities because of their Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC)," she said.

Pemberton killed Laude 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. Her body was found wrapped in a bedsheet with her head slumped in the toilet bowl.

A forensic pathologist testified that Laude died of asphyxia. During trial, Pemberton admitted to choking Laude. 

Pemberton, who is detained at the Philippine military headquarters in Quezon City, was sentenced in December 2015 to 6 to 10 years in prison for homicide. He was declared eligible for early release by an Olongapo court last week.

The US Marine may be released from detention before the weekend, his counsel Rowena Garcia Flores earlier said.