Filipino Courts Sentence U.S. Marine to 12 Years

CATW International December 28, 2015 Philippines

U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton is escorted by Philippines policemen. Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

Over a year after 26-year-old Jennifer Laude, a prostituted transgender Filipina, was found strangled, a U.S. Marine was found guilty of homicide convicted of homicide. Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Filipino high court and will serve his sentence in the Philippines. 

Our regional partner, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), has been raising awareness about the circumstances surrounding Laude’s death and advocating for Pemberton’s conviction through the ‘Justice for Jennifer’ campaign from its office in the Philippines. Along with CATW-AP, several organizations also condemned the numerous incidences of gender-based violence and discrimination as well as the lack of protection for trans women and the LGBTQ community. On October 9, 2015, CATW-AP and its allies held a candlelight vigil to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Laude’s death. 

CATW-AP’s Executive Director, Jean Enriquez, found Pemberton’s sentence to be too light. In the Philippines, a murder conviction could have brought a 40-year prison sentence. Homicide, however, is a lesser charge that carries with it a sentence of 12 to 20 years in prison. 

“[…] Pemberton should have been convicted of murder not homicide,” Enriquez said, “Clearly, the killing was carried out with cruelty (Art 248, 6. of the Revised Penal Code). Pemberton choked and arm locked Jennifer.

During prior advocacy efforts, Enriquez also stated:

“Getting justice is even harder if you are up against the most powerful country in the world; more so when victims are women who are commodified, objectified, discriminated in society. This hate crime against Jennifer is illustrative of the continuum of violence suffered by many women, including trans women.”

Aurora Javate-de Dios, CATW International and CATW-AP board president, highlighted the history of impunity when it comes to violence committed by visiting U.S. forces against Filipinas by pointing out that “this decision is historic.” 

The case strained diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Philippines and launched protests against the Visiting Forces Agreement and U.S. presence in the country.

Javate-de Dios added, “We hope that this [sentence] is implemented immediately.”

For more details about the case, read these articles in New York Magazine and the New York Times.