A U.S. Marine convicted of killing a transgender woman was deported from the Philippines after he was pardoned by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, 25, boarded an American military aircraft heading to the U.S. on Sunday while in handcuffs and a mask, the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval told Reuters. His deportation comes after he was convicted for the 2014 killing for Jennifer Laude, after he found out she was transgender.
Sandoval said Pemberton was blacklisted and banned from returning to the Philippines.
Pemberton said in a statement released by his attorney Rowena Garcia-Flores that he was “extremely grateful” to Duterte and was extending his “most sincere sympathy” to Laude’s family.
He said he has spent “much time contemplating the many errors” he made on the night Laude died, saying he “wishes he had the words to express the depth of his sorrow and regret.”
Virginia Suarez, the Laude family’s lawyer, said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press that she wishes Pemberton “peace of mind” and hopes he learned “the value of life and dignity regardless of gender and nationality.”
The U.S. Embassy said “all legal proceedings in the case took place under Philippine jurisdiction and law,” adding that “Pemberton fulfilled his sentence as ordered by Philippine courts,” according to the AP.
Duterte’s “absolute and unconditional pardon” of Pemberton last week and his deportation have raised scrutiny against a contract that governs American military presence in the country.
Pemberton’s detention was organized under the Visiting Forces Agreement, a legal agreement governing temporary visits by U.S. military personnel.
But the Regional Trial Court in Olongapo city ruled that a Philippine law allowing shorter jail sentences to those who practice good behavior still applied to the Marine, according to the AP. Laude’s family and the Department of Justice both appealed before the president issued his pardon.
Critics said the court order showed that American military members can get special treatment under the VFA. If the contract had been terminated, Pemberton couldn't have been kept at the military camp, and pressure would have mounted to move him to a prison in the Philippines, which the AP called “overcrowded and high-risk.”
Duterte announced in February that the VFA would end Aug. 9, before the Philippines backtracked on suspending the agreement.
Pemberton was an anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Mass. He worked in joint exercises, among thousands of Americans, in the Philippines in 2014.
While on leave, he and other Marines met Laude and her friends before Laude was found dead in a motel room where she and Pemberton had checked in, according to the AP.