This week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pardoned U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, who murdered Jennifer Laude, a trans Filipina woman, in October 2014 in the Philippines. We express our sincere condolences to the family of Jennifer Laude, who have contested Pemberton’s early release. 

Pemberton’s early release is not a matter of an individual’s good behavior, but rather a matter of national sovereignty and foreign intervention. 

The timing of Pemberton’s release does not come by chance. 

Duterte is pardoning Pemberton months after the U.S. State Department approved multiple arms sales to the Philippines worth more than $2 billion. Duterte has since suspended his previous termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, the same agreement under which Pemberton was given special treatment and his own prison cell inside a military camp, separate from the overflowing prisons in the Philippines. 

The Philippine government has decried criticism of it’s anti-terror law and human rights record as a form of interference. The truth is, the United States, as in the case of Pemberton and in the aformentioned arms sales, continues to wield military aid & might to influence Philippine matters. 

This is another case demonstrating why U.S. Congress should pass the Philippine Human Rights Act & suspend military aid to the Philippines — to cease using the Philippines as a pawn of US interests and to uphold human rights.  

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