September 10, 2020 (8:59 AM)

3 min read


PARDONED. Multiple LGBTQIA+ advocacy organizations criticize the decision granted by President Rodrigo Duterte in pardoning the killer of transgender woman Jennifer Laude. Photo taken from

After Pres. Rodrigo Duterte granted ‘absolute pardon’ last September 7 to US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, convicted for murdering transgender woman Jennifer Laude in 2014, various LGBTQIA+ organizations demanded justice and equality, asserting that Pemberton should have served his full sentence instead of being pardoned.

With Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) as the basis for Pemberton’s early release and absolute pardon, the LGBTQIA+ community and student organizations expressed their frustration with Duterte’s decision.

In the official statements of LGBTQIA+ organizations such as Philippine Advocates for Gay Liberation Through Advocating Youth Action (PAGLAYA), UP Babaylan, and Bahaghari, they pointed out that Pemberton’s pardon grant was discriminatory against Filipino trans women.“The LGBTQI+ community faces prevalent discrimination in legislative bodies which leaves our plight unwarranted, undisclosed, and overlooked,” PAGLAYA said.           

UP Babaylan’s statement also mentioned that the country had catered too much of its foreign interest and had ignored the pleas of its people.         

“President Duterte’s pardon of Pemberton sends out a loud and clear message that a Filipino trans woman’s life does not matter, that it is open season for discrimination and violence against transgender people, and that American soldiers will continue to get away with murder in Philippine soil,” UP Babaylan said.      

Trans woman and Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) professor Hadji Balajadia shared that despite respecting the decisions of the Court and the prerogative of the presidential pardon, Pemberton’s release sent an alarming signal on the state of the justice system in the Philippines.

She also mentioned that there were many reformed Filipino convicts who were well-deserving to receive pardon instead of an American criminal.

“We continue to affirm that LGBT rights are human rights! We urge everyone to respect and uphold the human dignity of all persons,” she said.

The Ateneo Libulan Circle also condemned the decision, stating that it is an “appalling reminder” of the government undervaluing the trans community.

“This decision belittles the murder of Jennifer Laude and creates an open avenue to aggrevate discrimination and violence rooted from hate especially to the members of the trans community,” Libulan said in their official statement.

Likewise, AdDU Samahan also condemned the “insensitive decision of the President.”

“Absolute pardon as an ‘act of grace’ by the president should have been granted instead to many poor Filipinos who are chained and captured by our country’s problematic justice system,” the student council said.

Human rights group Gabriela slammed Duterte’s accusation of “unfair treatment” on Pemberton’s case, saying that since day one, Pemberton had received nothing but special attention.

Gabriela Secretary General Joms Salvador released a statement stating that no ordinary Filipino knew if Pemberton actually served jail time since authorized individuals were the only ones allowed to see him.

He further stated that because of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Pemberton’s case was downgraded to homicide.

“The VFA contains provisions that favor Americans over Filipinos even in committing offense,” he said.         

Human rights lawyer Atty. Chel Diokno expressed his frustration on how the government pushes death penalty to punish Filipino convicts, but “rewards” foreigners for criminal acts.        

“Pag sa Pilipino bitay ang gusto, pero pag kay Pemberton absolute pardon? This pardon is an affront to the suffering of Jennifer Laude and her family, and rewards criminal behavior,” Diokno said.

End the silence of the gagged!

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