The Philippines will deport a US Marine convicted for the brutal murder of a transgender woman following a pardon from President Rodrigo Duterte in a case that has stirred outrage in the country over alleged special treatment of American servicemen.
Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton could walk free in days after Duterte used his constitutional powers to pardon him and said he was “treated unfairly,” angering human rights and LGBT advocacy groups.
He will leave the Philippines after serving only six years of his 10-year sentence for the 2014 killing of Jennifer Laude, a Filipino trans woman.
A Philippine court first made the decision to let him go after considering his Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA), a controversial Philippine law that shortens a convict’s sentence based on good behavior. The Laude family challenged the court’s decision, but Duterte’s pardon was the final word.
The Philippine Justice Department on Thursday, September 10 said the Bureau of Corrections is now processing Pemberton’s release. He will be turned over to the Bureau of Immigration in one to two days depending on paperwork.
Pemberton will then be deported upon release from a special detention facility at a military camp in Manila, the immigration bureau said.
In a statement, the agency said it will implement a summary deportation order against Pemberton that was issued on September 16, 2015 for being an “undesirable alien.”
“The bureau will arrange and schedule the deportee's flight and he is usually escorted to the airport by BI intelligence agents and civil security personnel who would turn him over to the airline concerned before he boards the aircraft,” Arvin Santos, the immigration legal chief, said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, which partly oversees Pemberton’s case under the Philippine-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), said it would not intervene.
Pemberton and Laude met at a bar on October 11, 2014 and went back to a motel together in Olongapo, a city near Subic Bay. But he strangled and killed her after discovering she was transgender. Laude was found dead, slumped in the motel’s toilet.
The case threw a harsh spotlight on the uneasy diplomatic relationship with the US, which ran the Philippines as a colony and still has a significant military footprint there despite the rising influence of China.
The US Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to requests for comment from VICE News.