Over a Cup of Tea
Heidi M. Pascual
Publisher & Editor
2006 Journalist of the year
for the State of Wisconsin
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What is the value of a Filipino transgender’s life?
Records show that the trial court in Olongapo City found Pemberton guilty of homicide, not murder as originally filed, citing mitigating
circumstances including Laude not revealing her gender identity, and sentenced him to 6 to 12 years in jail. The court viewed Pemberton’s
action as one out of "passion and obfuscation", that "in the heat of passion, he arm-locked the deceased, and dunked her head in the toilet."
It is important to note that the Laude family’s then attorney, Harry Roque (now President Duterte’s spokesman), disagreed with the trial court’s
decision, saying “It is not right that these mitigating circumstances showed his bigotry towards a transgender woman and that the bigotry itself
was the reason he killed her."
None. But that is just me talking and writing it down right now. And I am feeling that because the person
responsible for the violent death of one has just been pardoned absolutely by my native country’s president,
Rodrigo Duterte, one of the most popular and controversial presidents in the world today.
The transgender was known as Jennifer Laude, then a 26 year-old, who was killed six years ago (2014) by a 19
year-old U.S. marine, Josept Scott Pemberton, during a sexual encounter in Olongapo City. Pemberton was in
the Philippines as a member of the US Visiting Forces that take part in regular military exercises with their
Earlier that fateful night, Laude and Pemberton met at a disco bar and later got a room at a local motel. Police
records would show that 30 minutes after checking in, Laude was found dead, with her neck blackened with
strangulation marks and her head in a toilet bowl. The cause of death was reported as "asphyxiation by
Pemberton was “jailed” at Camp Aguinaldo (the Philippines’
Military Headquarters), and not in the national penitentiary and
later received a reduced sentence from 12 years to 10.
Very recently however, everything fought for by the Laude family
and supporters for transgender rights vanished, because
Pemberton received an absolute pardon by President Duterte.
The trial court (Branch 74) judge in the same city said that
Pemberton “had already served a jail sentence of ten years, one
month, and ten days on account of his accumulated Good
Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).”
Pemberton was, of course, released from his comfortable
confinement at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
Custodial Center, and a few days ago, was flown back to the
United States of America, free from serving a justified period for
the violent crime he committed against a Filipino transgender
To me, regardless of the indiscretions of Jennifer Laude, she did
not deserve to die and to die in a manner so repulsive to
humanity. Her being a transgender woman has nothing to do with
how a person respects another. Everybody deserves respect,
regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Pemberton committed
a crime that deserves the maximum penalty imposed by law. His
being an American or a visiting “soldier”
should have nothing to do with his crime.
Absolute pardon? What is the exchange?