On September 8, a lightning rally was initiated by progressive groups in Boy Scout Circle at Tomas Morato, Quezon City carrying calls such as “Justice for Jennifer”, “Junk VFA”, and “Oust Duterte” after President Rodrigo Duterte announced yesterday that he is giving Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton an ‘absolute pardon.’
“Si Jennifer Laude ang paulit-ulit na pinatay. Sa unang pagkakataon, siya ay pinaslang ni Joseph Scott Pemberton; at ngayon, siya ay pinatay ni Duterte upang pagsilbihan ang interes ng mga dayuhan,” said Bahaghari spox Rey Valmores-Salinas during the protest.
[Jennifer Laude is killed repeatedly. From the onset, she was killed by Joseph Scott Pemberton; and now, she is killed by Duterte to serve the interest of foreign powers.]
Various LGBT groups have also expressed condemnation to the news of Pemberton’s release via Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) last week and now via Duterte’s absolute pardon. While Laude’s counsel sought to stop the release of Pemberton via GCTA, Duterte’s absolute pardon has removed all possible legal hurdles to Pemberton’s release and could even fast-track it. Some groups, netizens describe Duterte’s absolute pardon an ‘act of a transphobic leader.’
“Duterte, Philippine president gave full pardon to release US Navy, a vicious murderer of a Filipino transgender woman. This has shown us the act of transphobic state leader and it is an insult to us all,” ASEAN SOGIE Caucus said on the absolute pardon of Pemberton.
The organization emphasized that the issue is a reminder for human rights bodies of the regions “to act against malice and discrimination toward LGBTIQ that happen on national level, no matter how seemingly microscopic.”
Queers Resisting Tyranny also expressed indignation to the government who then claimed and later withdrew its decision to abolish the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which resulted in the rampant human rights abuses in the country, among of which is Laude’s case.
“It is clear that justice for Jennifer will continue to be denied for as long as the Visiting Forces Agreement, which Pemberton weaponized to the greatest extent to absolve himself, is upheld,” the group said in their press statement.
Campus-based LGBT organizations and student councils also joined the opposition movement and released their respective statements.
“Ang pagpaslang kay Jennifer Laude ay isang karumaldumal na krimen na nagpapakita ng karahasang dinaranas ng mga trans at ng iba pang myembro ng LGBT community. Ang pagpapalaya ni Duterte kay Pemberton ay mas masahol pa sa krimeng ginawa niya para sa mga mamamayang lumalaban para sa hustisya ng isang buhay na nawala. Hindi lang ang pamilya ni Jennifer Laude ang binastos ng gawing ito kundi pati ang mga mamamayang naniningil o humihingi ng katarungan,” said Technological University of the Philippines (TUP) Dugong Bughaw
“Isang sampal sa buong sambayanang Pilipino na ang rehimeng Duterte ay nananatiling alagad ng mga imperyalistang bansa tulad ng US at China. Harap-harapang pagsasawalang-bahala rin ito sa iba’t-ibang uri ng karahasang dinaranas ng Pilipinong LGBTQ+ araw-araw. Hangga’t nananatili sa pwesto ang sunod-sunurang tuta ng imperyalistang US si Duterte, hindi makakamit ang hustisya para kay Jennifer Laude at iba pang mga biktima,” said University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Babaylan.
“We believe that the release of Pemberton does not end with robbing justice from Jennifer Laude but serves as pretext for Duterte to deny justice from us just so he could please the US and will allow him to continue favoring imperialist powers instead of prioritizing the welfare of his people. Even more, as the USC stands with the various marginalized sectors, we strongly believe that Duterte’s pardon and release of Pemberton is a direct assault on the LGBTQ+ community,” said University of the Philippines Manila – University Student Council.