Citing the inmate's good behavior in prison and the need "to do justice," Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pardoned a US Marine on Monday who was convicted of killing a transgender woman in 2014. The pardon surprised even the inmate's lawyer, the Washington Post reports, and brought anger from activists and the victim's family. A lawyer for Jennifer Laude's family called the decision "another hallmark of Philippines' subservience to the US." Karapatan, a Philippine human rights group, said, "We view this as not only a mockery of justice but also a blatant display of servility to US interest." Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing Laude, 26. He admitted becoming enraged and killing Laude in a motel room when he realized she was transgender, per CBS. He was 19 at the time.
A Laude family lawyer had said there was no documentation, no findings, to suggest Pemberton had reformed. The pardon, she said, is a demonstration of "the systematic discrimination and violence inflicted by US to Filipino women, children and the LGBTQ community." But Duterte said on TV that Pemberton had not been treated fairly, per Reuters. "This is how I see it," the president said. "So release him. Pardon." Pemberton's lawyer thanked Duterte. Months before the slaying, the government had signed a deal allowing a greater US military presence in the country. "So much for claims of having an independent foreign policy," a leftist political organization said Monday. "The US government had its way again on this issue." (The killing immediately increased tensions between the two nations.)