Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday granted an “absolute pardon” to a U.S. Marine convicted of killing a Filipino transgender woman in 2014.
Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton had served just over half of a ten-year sentence for the murder of Jennifer Laude prior to the pardon’s announcement.
“Cutting matters short over what constitutes time served, and since where he was detained was not in the prisoner’s control—and to do justice — the President has granted an absolute pardon to Pemberton. Here at the Palace,” Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. wrote in a Twitter statement on Monday.
The pardon came as Philippine prosecutors prepared to block Pemberton’s early release from prison, which he secured last week for good behavior, according to the Philippine Star. Authorities have yet to announce a release date for the U.S. citizen.
Pemberton met Laude in a bar in the northeastern Philippine city of Olangapo in October 2014 while on leave after participating in joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises.
“Police said the pair checked into a hotel, where she [Laude] was found dead the following day, slumped over the toilet, apparently strangled,” the BBC reported. Pemberton testified in court that he attacked Laude after realizing Laude was transgender, “but claimed she was still alive when he left the [hotel] room.”
According to the report, the murder case had been a source of tension between the U.S. and the Philippines. The U.S. retained custody of the U.S. Marine throughout his trial and incarceration, meaning Pemberton served his sentence on a U.S. military base rather than in a Philippine prison. America maintains a significant military presence in the Philippines, as the country was formerly a U.S. colony. Pemberton remained in U.S. military custody while incarcerated under the terms of a defense pact between the two countries.