Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has pardoned a United States Marine this week following his imprisonment for the killing of a transgender Filipino woman, sparking outrage from human rights advocates and the LGBTQ community.
Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted in 2015 of homicide and has been serving a prison sentence of six to 10 years for the killing of Jennifer Laude in a motel in Olongapo city, north-west of Manila. According to The Washington Post, Pemberton, then 20, admitted to choking Laude, 26, after discovering she was transgender. He claimed he acted in self-defence, but Laude’s supporters and a police investigation identified his actions as a hate crime.
The pardon was first announced on Twitter by Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. and later confirmed by presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
Roque told the press that the president “does not need to give a reason” for his decision, “because granting pardon and parole is not a function of the judiciary, but of the executive.”
In a televised address, Duterte said: “We should allow him the good character presumption."
Following the decision, the hashtag #JusticeForJenniferLaude began to trend globally. In one of the most shared tweets, Philippine human rights activist Chel Diokno called the pardon an "affront to Jennifer Laude and her family" and a "big step backward for justice in this case and in our country".