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Duterte Pardons a Convicted U.S. Marine in the Trans Gender Woman's Murder on His Good Character

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has granted an absolute pardon to a U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, convicted in 2015 of killing Jennifer Laude, a transgender woman in the Philippines, the president's spokesman confirmed on Monday.

"It does not mean his conviction is erased," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said of Duterte's decision to pardon Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton. "But what this means is Pemberton is free now and that there is no more question if he is entitled to good conduct time allowances."

US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, convicted for the killing of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude, should be given the presumption of good behavior while he was serving his sentence, President Rodrigo Duterte said.

In a public address aired Monday night, Duterte justified his grant of a pardon to Pemberton, which effectively extinguished the US serviceman's criminal liability and would render court proceedings on the Laude family’s appeal moot.

Last week on September 1, Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74, north of Manila and next to a former U.S. naval base, ordered Pemberton's early release after it ruled that the U.S. serviceman had shown good behavior and had therefore served the equivalent of his maximum sentence of 10 years.

According to the court ruling, the Bureau of Corrections had said the computation presented by Pemberton’s lawyer is “partially incorrect,” as they pointed out that he was only received by the bureau on Dec. 1, 2015.

Security camera video showed Pemberton and Laude checking into a hotel together, but only Pemberton left. The Marine admitted choking Laude in a rage after discovering that she was transgender, but claimed in his testimony that she was still breathing when he left. His lawyers argued that Pemberton felt "raped" when he realized Laude was transgender.

The crime occurred just six months after the Philippines and the United States signed a military agreement allowing the rotational presence of more U.S. troops in the Philippines.

GCTA Pemberton earned in his prior confinement before this—at the military headquarters, under the Visiting Forces Agreement—must be credited by the BuCor director, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and jail warden, the bureau argued, citing Section 5 of RA 10592, or the GCTA Law.

The court on Monday told the BuCor to submit an updated computation and explain whether Pemberton is eligible for GCTA.

But Duterte said Pemberton should not be faulted for this as neither he nor the military are required to keep a record of his character while inside prison.

"Garrison never kept a record... That’s not the work of the marines, to stand guard because they are not BJMP or from Muntinlupa (where the BuCor is)," he said.

The president added: “It’s not the fault of Pemberton that it was not computed because we should allow him the good character presumption because no one reported from the marines of his bad behavior.”

Duterte also argued that Pemberton deserves to be credited with good conduct time since there was no record of him committing unruly behavior while in prison.

"The marines could have reported otherwise to the secretary of justice, to the police... that he was shouting like a drunken man. But the presumption is, since there were no such reports, then the man did not do anything wrong. In fairness, the computation is finished, he was recommended to be released, then release him," he added.

Duterte, who has ranted about the US's supposed effort to impose its will on other countries, said he is not siding with anyone when he made the decision.

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