MANILA (UPDATE) - Convicted killer US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton expressed Sunday his "most sincere sympathy" to the family of his victim Jennifer Laude as he was deported back to the US following an absolute pardon from President Rodrigo Duterte.
Pemberton, 25, left Manila via a military plane at 9:14 a.m. from the Ninoy Aquino Internal Airport, the Bureau of Immigration earlier said.
Pemberton's counsel, Rowena Garcia-Flores, said he "extends his most sincere sympathy for the pain he caused" to Laude's family.
"In the years he spent in confinement, he spent much time contemplating the many errors in his ways regarding the night of October 11, 2014. He wishes he had the words to express the depth of his sorrow and regret," she said.
Pemberton choked Laude to death on Oct. 11, 2014 inside a motel in Olongapo City, north of Manila, after finding out she was a transgender while in an intimate act.
In December 2015, a local court sentenced him to 6 to 10 years imprisonment, which he served inside a custodial facility in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, and pay damages to Laude's family, which he complied with on Aug. 25, 2020, in the amount of P4.65 million.
A week before being pardoned by Duterte on Sept. 7, Pemberton was declared by the court eligible for early release on the account of good behavior in prison, a decision questioned by Laude's family, LGBTQIA groups, rights activists, and other sectors.
Garcia-Flores said Pemberton "wishes to express his deepest gratitude to President Duterte" for granting him absolute pardon.
"He is extremely grateful for this act of compassion," she said.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in the Philippines said "all legal proceedings in the case took place under Philippine jurisdiction and law."
"Lance Cpl. Pemberton fulfilled his sentence as ordered by Philippine courts and he departed the Philippines on September 13," the Embassy said in a statement.
Lawyer Virgie Suarez, one of the counsels of the Laude family, said the victim's relatives "never received any letter of apology."
"Yung nakasakit o nakabangga ka lang, you would say sorry. Pero ito, pinatay niya, hindi man lang siya mag-sorry. Kailangan pa siyang utusan ng kanyang counsel! He owes it also to the Filipino people. More than anyone else, he owes it to the Laude family," she told ABS-CBN News.
(You say sorry when you slightly hurt or bump into somebody. But here, he killed a person, yet he hasn't said sorry. He has to be ordered by this counsel!)
"May he find peace of mind. Hoping he has learned from all these the value of life and dignity regardless of gender and nationality."
The US Marine served just over half of his homicide sentence at a facility guarded by the Bureau of Corrections at the Philippine military headquarters, instead of regular prison, following the US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement.
Pemberton was in the county at the time he committed the crime as part of a joint military exercise.
Laude's body was found wrapped in a bedsheet with her head slumped in the toilet bowl. A forensic pathologist testified she died of asphyxia.
Duterte's move to pardon Pemberton drew criticism, with members of the LGBT community and counsel of the Laude family saying that the President had bargained the Filipinos' sovereignty to the US.
--With reports from Angel Movido and Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News