US Marine Granted Absolute Pardon After Killing Filipina Transgender Woman


A United States Marine convicted of killing a transgender Filipina in 2014 may soon be released after serving six years of his 10-year sentence. 

Good behavior: On Monday, convict Joseph Scott Pemberton was given an absolute pardon by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte a few days after a regional court ruled he was eligible for early release due to good behavior, the Washington Post reports.

  • The regional trial court judge in Olongapo convicted Pemberton of homicide in 2015 for killing Jennifer Laude in 2014.
  • The conviction was a less serious charge and carried a lighter jail term than murder which is what the victim’s family sought.
  • Despite the demands of the victim’s family that Pemberton should be held in an ordinary jail, he was mostly detained in a compound jointly guarded by Philippine and American security personnel at a military camp in Manila.
  • On Wednesday, the Olongapo trial court ruled that Pemberton qualified under the government’s good behavior program.
  • The family was preparing to file an appeal but Duterte’s pardon effectively rendered this and all other attempts moot.

Bad behavior: Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator who took part in the U.S.-Philippines joint military exercises in October 2014, killed Laude after meeting her at an Olongapo bar near a former U.S. naval base.

  • Laude, 26, was found dead in a motel room in Olongapo on October 11, 2014.
  • Pemberton, then 19, admitted in court to choking, but not killing Laude after discovering she was transgender, GMA News reports.
  • He told the court he acted in self-defense, choking the victim unconscious after she had slapped him. He then dragged her to the bathroom to run water over her to help her regain consciousness.
  • An autopsy report conducted by the Philippine National Police found that Laude died from strangulation and drowning, according to the Inquirer.

Unfair treatment: The pardon was first announced on Twitter yesterday by Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr.

  • Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who once legally represented Laude’s relatives, confirmed the decision in a statement: “This means Pemberton will be granted freedom, there is no more issue over whether or not he is entitled to GCTA…. The President cleared the punishment that was imposed on Pemberton.”
  • Speaking in Filipino, Roque then said that while Duterte absolved him of his punishment, Pemberton remains a murderer.
  • In giving his reason for the absolute pardon to Pemberton, Duterte claimed in a televised speech that the Philippine government had not treated Pemberton fairly.


  • While some from the LGBTQ+ community and allies are outraged by the pardon, there have also been those who claim Duterte’s decision is “right & just,” with Pemberton paying Laude’s family 4,655,250 Philippine pesos ($95,700) in civil damages while serving his time.

Feature Image via PTV

Support our Journalism with a Contribution

Many people might not know this, but despite our large and loyal following which we are immensely grateful for, NextShark is still a small bootstrapped startup that runs on no outside funding or loans.

Everything you see today is built on the backs of warriors who have sacrificed opportunities to help give Asians all over the world a bigger voice.

However, we still face many trials and tribulations in our industry, from figuring out the most sustainable business model for independent media companies to facing the current COVID-19 pandemic decimating advertising revenues across the board.

We hope you consider making a contribution so we can continue to provide you with quality content that informs, educates and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for everyone’s support. We love you all and can’t appreciate you guys enough.

NextShark is a leading source covering Asian American News and Asian News including business, culture, entertainment, politics, tech and lifestyle.

For advertising and inquiries: