September 13, 2020 at 8:04 pm PDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Coons blasts report Philippines president pardoned U.S. Marine for coronavirus vaccines

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Friday blasted a report that suggests the president of the Philippine pardoned a U.S. Marine who was convicted of killing a transgender woman in exchange for coronavirus vaccines from the U.S.

That (Rodrigo) Duterte could pardon a murderer who killed someone who deserves to be alive today and that that could possibly be seen as a trade off for a vaccine to save lives from the latest pandemic strikes me as a new low, even for this administration,” said Coons, referring to President Trump.

Coons made the comment in response to a Los Angeles Blade question during a fundraiser for the Blade Foundation that took place at the Blue Moon in Rehoboth Beach.

Philippine prosecutors contend Lance Cpl. Joseph Pemberton in October 2014 murdered Jennifer Laude in a motel in Olongapo City on the Philippines’ main island of Luzon after he discovered she was trans. The murder took place after Pemberton met Laude at a local nightclub while his ship was docked at the Subic Bay Freeport.

A court in 2015 sentenced Pemberton to 6-12 years in prison, but he received credit for the time he spent in custody before his trial. A judge the following year reduced Pemberton’s sentence.

Lance Cpl. Joseph Pemberton via Manila PI news broadcast screenshot

Duterte’s surprise pardon of Pemberton on Sept. 7 sparked widespread outrage and condemnation among Philippine activists. Agence France-Presse on Thursday reported Duterte spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters during a virtual news conference the pardon should allow the Philippines to receive doses of coronavirus vaccines produced in the U.S.

As we all know our president has emphasized the need for a vaccine,” said Roque, according to Agence France-Presse.

The grant of a pardon to Pemberton is in line with our president’s desire that the Philippines should also benefit when Americans do develop a vaccine,” he added.

The State Department has yet to publicly comment on the pardon.

Update: Pemberton on Sunday left the Philippines on a U.S. military cargo plane. The New York Times reported the U.S. Embassy in Manila in a statement said Pemberton “fulfilled his sentence as ordered by Philippine courts and he departed the Philippines on Sept. 13.”

“All legal proceedings in the case took place under Philippine jurisdiction and law,” said the embassy.

Philippine officials said Pemberton is barred from returning to the country.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. Follow Michael

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