11 July 2024

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines on Sunday deported a United States Marine convicted of killing a transgender woman in the Southeast Asian country in 2014, after he was granted an absolute pardon by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton left Manila’s international airport at 9:14 a.m. local time (0114 GMT) aboard an American military aircraft bound for the United States, according to Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokeswoman Dana Sandoval.

Pemberton was accompanied by representatives from the U.S. embassy on his way to the airport, she told state television PTV-4.

“As a consequence of the deportation order against him, Pemberton has been placed on the Bureau’s blacklist, perpetually banning him from coming back,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement.

Details of Pemberton’s flight arrangements were not disclosed to the media until after he left amid tight security measures.

A court had found Pemberton guilty of killing Jennifer Laude in a hotel in Olongapo, outside a former U.S. navy base northwest of the capital Manila, six years ago, in a case that sparked debate over the U.S. military presence in its former colony.

Duterte’s move to pardon Pemberton has sparked condemnation from activists who described the move as a “mockery of justice”.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who served as a lawyer in the prosecution of Pemberton, had said Duterte’s decision may have stemmed from his desire to get access to coronavirus vaccines being developed by U.S. firms.

However, the Philippine health ministy said that none of the U.S. vaccine makers the government is in talks with had set any conditions.