by Heidi M. Pascual
What Is the Value of a Filipino Transgender’s Life?
Records show that the trial court in Olongapo City found Pemberton
guilty of homicide, not murder as originally filed, citing mitigating
circumstances including Laude not revealing her gender identity,
and sentenced him to 6-12 years in jail. The court viewed
Pemberton’s action as one out of "passion and obfuscation," that "in
the heat of passion, he arm-locked the deceased, and dunked her
head in the toilet."

It is important to note that the Laude family’s then attorney, Harry
Roque (now President Duterte’s spokesman), disagreed with the
trial court’s decision, saying “It is not right that these mitigating
circumstances showed his bigotry towards a transgender woman
and that the bigotry itself was the reason he killed her."

Pemberton was “jailed” at Camp Aguinaldo (the Philippines’ Military
Headquarters), and not in the national penitentiary and later
received a reduced sentence from 12 years to 10.

Very recently however, everything fought for by the Laude family and
supporters for transgender rights vanished because Pemberton
received an absolute pardon by President Duterte. The trial court
(Branch 74) judge in the same city said that Pemberton “had already
served a jail sentence of ten years, one month, and ten days on
account of his accumulated Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).”
Pemberton was, of course, released from his comfortable
confinement at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Custodial
Center, and a few days ago, was flown back to the United States of
America, free from serving a justified period for the violent crime he
committed against a Filipino transgender woman.

To me, regardless of the indiscretions of Jennifer Laude, she did
not deserve to die and to die in a manner so repulsive to humanity.
Her being a transgender woman has nothing to do with how a
person respects another. Everybody deserves respect, regardless
of gender or sexual orientation. Pemberton committed a crime that
deserves the maximum penalty imposed by law. His being an
American or a visiting “soldier” should have nothing to do with his

Absolute pardon? What is the exchange?
None. But that is just me talking and writing it down right now. And I am feeling that because the person responsible for the violent death of one has
just been pardoned absolutely by my native country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, one of the most popular and controversial presidents in the world

The transgender was known as Jennifer Laude, then a 26 year-old, who was killed six years ago (2014) by a 19 year-old U.S. marine, Joseph Scott
Pemberton, during a sexual encounter in Olongapo City. Pemberton was in the Philippines as a member of the US Visiting Forces that take part in
regular military exercises with their Filipino counterpart.

Earlier that fateful night, Laude and Pemberton met at a disco bar and later got a room at a local motel. Police records would show that 30 minutes
after checking in, Laude was found dead, with her neck blackened with strangulation marks and her head in a toilet bowl. The cause of death was
reported as "asphyxiation by drowning."