A US Marine convicted of killing a Filipina transgender woman has been deported from the Philippines following a presidential pardon which cut short his imprisonment after nearly six years.
Joseph Pemberton said that he was “extremely grateful” to President Rodrigo Duterte for pardoning him, USA Today reports.
He expressed his “most sincere sympathy” to the family of Jennifer Laude, who he killed in 2014 in a motel northwest of Manila after finding out that she was transgender.
On Monday, Duterte granted an “absolute and unconditional pardon” to Pemberton, surprising many. The Philippine leader has long been a vocal critic of US policies while reaching out to China and Russia.
The pardon was condemned by left-wing and LGBTQ+ groups.
Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator, was one of thousands of American and local military personnel who took part in joint exercises in the Philippines in 2014.
He and other Marines were on leave after the exercises and met Laude and her friends at a bar in Olongapo, a city known for its nightlife outside Subic Bay, a former US Navy base.
Laude was later found dead, her head rammed into a toilet bowl in a motel room, where witnesses said she and Pemberton had checked in.
Investigators said that Pemberton admitted he choked Laude after discovering she was not a “real” woman.
Prosecutors sought a murder conviction but in 2015, a judge convicted Pemberton of the lesser crime of homicide.
The case renewed outrage over agreements governing US military relations with the Philippines.