MANILA (UPDATE) - A convoy believed to be carrying US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton has left Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Sunday morning ahead of his impending deportation from the country.
The group of vehicles, which started gathering near the detention facility of Pemberton past 5 a.m., started leaving the Philippine military's main camp before 8 a.m. and headed to Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Officials have yet to respond to queries for confirmation of Pemberton's release from detention.
Pemberton is set to leave the country Sunday morning via a US military plane along with 12 security details, according to a source.
Pemberton, convicted in 2015 for killing Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude in Olongapo City, north of the capital Manila, was granted absolute pardon last week by President Rodrigo Duterte. A week earlier, a court in Olongapo found the 25-year-old American soldier eligible for early release on account of good behavior.
The Philippines’ immigration bureau has ordered Pemberton’s deportation in 2015 but could only implement it after he had served his sentence.
Pemberton, who is automatically blacklisted in the Philippines, is expected to be flown out of the country Sunday.
Laude’s family, LGBTQIA groups, rights activists, and other sectors criticized Duterte’s decision to pardon Pemberton, with a Commission on Human Rights official saying it “exhibited double standards, lack of fairness, and the absence of empathy for the LGBTQI community.”
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, who represented the Laude family during the trial of Pemberton, had said that allowing his early release sets a “very bad” precedent as it shows the disregard for Filipino life, noting that Laude’s death is equivalent to the “symbolic death” of Philippine sovereignty. He would later “respect the wisdom of the President, which is grounded on a broader national interest” after the pardon was granted.
Pemberton choked Laude to death in October 2014 inside a motel in Olongapo City after finding out she was a transgender. The victim was found wrapped in a bed sheet, with her head slumped in the toilet bowl.
The soldier was in the Philippines at the time as part of a joint training exercise.
- With reports from Fred Cipres and Angel Movido, ABS-CBN News