The Urduja Women’s Desk, together with the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC), strongly denounce the President’s grant of “absolute pardon” to US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Pemberton. We condemn this act done at the expense of justice for Jennifer Laude and the LGBTQI+ community.
Jennifer Laude, a beautiful, kind, and charming transgender woman, suffered a brutal death at the hands of Pemberton. Despite this, Pemberton was only convicted of the crime of homicide and was sentenced to 10 years of prison. Today, he is set to walk free by Presidential pardon. This grant of absolute pardon by the President perpetuates the culture of violence, discrimination, and impunity. In the middle of the pandemic, this course of action is another reason for us to question what the administration’s priorities truly are.
The merciless and vicious murder of of our fellow Filipino, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a trans sister, should NOT be forgiven nor forgotten. We can never condone such discriminating and dehumanizing acts against the community. Pemberton, guilty of a hate crime, deserves to spend time in jail. The unconscionable move of granting him absolute pardon is a blatant act of betrayal to serve foreign interests and an act of enabling systemic violence. It is an affront to the dignity of the Filipino people as well as our sovereignty.
Furthermore, the grant of pardon is a real step backward, setting back years of progress made by women and the LGBTQI+ community in the struggle to end gender-based violence and for the fight for justice. More dangerously, the grant of pardon sends a chilling message that perpetrators of gender-based violence can avoid accountability for their acts of violence against women, discrimination, and harassment.
Given this recent development, it is high time to renew the call for the immediate passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill, which has been languishing in Congress since the first iteration was passed last 2000. 1 The general clamor for equality for all has already been made manifest by the Filipino people, and has been answered by the Lower House when, in 2017 it passed unanimously on third and final reading. 2 Because of the equivocation of a handful of senators in the Upper House, it stalled there. We call on our senators to stop their prevarications and allow our LGBTQI+ brothers and sisters to be treated the same as everyone else. Now, more than ever, is the time to banish
misconceptions about the LGBTQI+ community and treat them with the dignity and respect that is owed them as human beings.
We demand for the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill. We demand that hate crime, especially against the community, be punished in accordance with law, so that true justice may be served. Finally, we ask everyone, in the face of injustice and betrayal, to remain vigilant, vocal, and to continue fighting for what is right.
1 Michelle Abad, TIMELINE: SOGIE equality in the Philippines, available at https://rappler.com/newsbreak/explainers/timeline-sogie-equality-philippines (last accessed Sep. 7, 2020).