On October 2, 2014, Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton murdered Jennifer Laude in Olongapo, Philippines. After the victim was found dead in a hotel, the United States Marine was arrested as a murder suspect. He was eventually found guilty of strangling his victim after he found out that she was a transgender woman. Nearly six years since the incident, the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, September 7, pardoned the convicted man. LGBT organisations and activists spoke up against the decision.

In what the victim's family lawyer, Virginia Suarez, calls a "mockery" of the country's justice system, Pemberton has been granted a pardon from the president. Having served more than half of his 10-year sentence, the 25-year-old was granted an early release by a local court last week. However, the decision was pending an appeal from lawyers of the victim's family. Duterte's pardon scrapped the early release process.

Pemberton had arrived in the Philippines for US-Philippines military exercises. During his leave, he went to a bar in Olongapo where he met Laude. The duo decided to go to a motel for the night. The following day, the victim was found slumped over the toilet. She had been strangled to death.

Pemberton admitted to strangling Laude after his arrest. He confessed that he was enraged when he discovered that she was a transgender woman. He claimed that when he left the woman in the motel room, she was still alive. He was eventually convicted for her murder and sentenced to 10 years.

Instead of serving his sentence at a prison in the country the anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Massachusetts was imprisoned on a US military base. This was due to the terms of a defence pact between the two countries that allowed the US to retain custody of Pemberton throughout his trial and incarceration, BBC pointed out. Since the pardoning, it has not been announced when he will be released and allowed to return to the US.

While murderers and criminals like United States soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton are granted absolute pardon, activists, government critics, and the poor in the country face growing threats and intensifying harassment from the State. pic.twitter.com/GSXI8314Se

— Karapatan (@karapatan) September 8, 2020

The release of the convicted man drew criticism from the LGBT community. Filipino human rights groups like Karapatan and UP Babaylan condemned the decision. They claim that the president's decision indicates that the lives of transgender people do not matter.

We will never forgive Duterte for pardoning his fellow murderer Pemberton.

This is a direct attack not just to Jennifer & her family but to every trans person & every victim of our corrupt & unequal “justice” system.#KeepPembertonInJail#JusticeForJenniferLaude#OustDuterte pic.twitter.com/qmHv0MNSXM

— UP Babaylan #SOGIEEqualityNow (@upbabaylan) September 7, 2020
Jennifer Laude
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has pardoned the murderer of transgender woman Jennifer Laude. Getty