Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has granted US Marine Joseph Pemberton an absolute pardon for the killing of 26-year-old Philippines national Jennifer Laude (born Jeffrey Laude), with the move prompting a backlash from the victim’s family and local rights groups.
“The president has erased the remaining punishment against Pemberton…He can now go home because of the pardon,” Duterte spokesman Harry Roque told reporters in a statement.
The government’s announcement came after Olongapo City Regional Trial Court ordered Pemberton’s release late last week, citing good behaviour during time served. The Marine continued to be held despite the order due to an appeal by the Department of Justice. However, Duterte’s signature of the pardon order nullified the appeal.
In a statement, Virginia Suarez, legal counsel to Laude’s family, “strongly” denounced the decision to pardon Pemberton, calling it a “mockery of our judiciary and legal system” and “another injustice not only to Jennifer Laude and family but a grave injustice to the Filipino people”.
Edre Olalia, a representative of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, echoed the sentiment, calling the pardon a “brazen and shameless sellout” of Manila’s sovereignty.
Karapatan, a local human rights group, similarly called Duterte’s decision to pardon Pemberton “a despicable and shameless mockery of justice and servility to US imperialist interests”. The group suggested that Laude’s murder was just the latest “violation” of the Philippines “by US military intervention in the country.”
Laude’s 2014 murder caused major protests in the Philippines against the defence agreement with the US, including over the fact that Pemberton was detained in US military custody before and during the trial, and has served his sentence at Camp Agunaldo, a Philippines military custodial centre in Quezon City, instead of a national penitentiary.