MANILA, Philippines – A US Marine convicted of the murder of a Filipino transgender woman was deported on Sunday following a presidential apology after cutting his custody in a case that controlled a US military presence in the Philippines Resented the agreement.
Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton said in a farewell message that he was “extremely grateful” for forgiving President Rodrigo Duterte and expressed his “most sincere sympathy” to the family of Jennifer Loud, who was murdered in a motel in the northwest in 2014 was convicted. Manila finds out that she was transgender.
In his nearly six years of imprisonment, Pemberton said he “spent a lot of time considering too many errors” that night he died untimely. According to Pemberton’s message, “he wishes he had the words to express the depth of his sorrow and regret, which was issued by his lawyer Rowena Garcia-Floors.”
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The Laud family’s attorney, Virginia Suarez, said in a statement that she wished Pemberton “peace of mind,” and hoped that she had learned “the value of life and reputation regardless of gender and nationality.”
Philippine immigration officials and US personnel rescued 25-year-old Pemberton, who was handcuffed and wearing a face mask, from his cell at the airport’s main military camp in Manila, where he was boarding a military plane. Immigration spokesman Dana Sandoval said he was placed on an immigration blacklist and would be banned from returning to the country.
The US embassy stated that “all legal proceedings in the case took place under Philippine jurisdiction and law,” adding that “Pemberton completed his sentence according to the order of the Philippine courts.”
On Monday, Duterte gave Pemberton a “full and unconditional pardon” in a move that surprised many. Philippine leaders had long been vocal critics of US security policies while reaching China and Russia.
Duterte’s pardon was condemned by leftist and LGBTQ groups.
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Debate has begun as to whether the Marines, whose treaty was made under the Allies’ Visiting Forces Agreement or the VFA, may be covered by Philippine law that gives normal prisoners less prison sentences for good conduct .
The regional trial court in Olongapo City, which handled Pemberton’s case, ruled that the law covered Pemberton and ordered officials on Sept 1 to release him early for good conduct. But Loud’s family and the Department of Justice separately appealed, barring his initial release from a maximum prison term of up to 10 years.
Duterte said he apologized because Pemberton had not been treated fairly after his early release, which he said the Marine might have qualified, was blocked.
The court order rekindled the notion that US military personnel operating Philippine laws could receive special treatment under the VFA, which provides legal conditions for temporary visits by the US military for large-scale combat exercises .
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Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Massachusetts, was one of thousands of American and Philippine military personnel who participated in a joint exercise in the Philippines in 2014.
He and some other Marines were on leave after practice and met Loud and his friends at a bar in downtown Olongapo, known for their nightlife outside Subic Bay, a former base of the US Navy.
Loud was later found dead, his head slammed into a toilet bowl in a motel room, where witnesses said he and Pemberton had checked in. A witness told investigators that Pemberton said he cheated Laud after discovering she was transgender.
In December 2015, a judge convicted Pemberton of murder, not the more serious murder charge that Philippine prosecutors sought. The judge said at the time that factors such as cruelty and betrayal were not proved.
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The VFA could be rescinded last month if Duterte did not delay an earlier decision to end the treaty after President Donald Trump expressed his readiness to help the Philippines deal with the COVID-19 epidemic. The Philippine leader has said that his country can survive without America.
If the VFA had been abolished, it would have removed a legal basis for Pemberton’s detention in a military camp and created pressure to move him to one of the country’s notorious congested and high-risk prisons.