• Joseph Scott Pemberton sentenced to 6 to 12 years in jail
  • Case has fueled clamor for review of security accord with U.S.

A Philippine court found a U.S. marine guilty of killing a transgender Filipino, in a case that has ignited anti-American sentiment in the former U.S. colony.

A judge in Olongapo City on Tuesday convicted Joseph Scott Pemberton of homicide and sentenced him to six to 12 years in jail. Pemberton could have faced a life sentence had Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde granted prosecutors request for a murder conviction. Ginez-Jabalde cited mitigating circumstances, saying Pemberton was drunk and got confused after discovering that the woman he hired for sex was male.

The U.S. marine, who’s being detained in a U.S. facility at a military headquarters in Manila, was accused of killing Jeffrey Laude, a 26-year-old male sex worker who identified as a woman. Laude was found strangled in October last year in a motel after being last seen with a foreign man, police said. Roline Ginez-Jabalde ordered Pemberton to be transferred to a Philippine jail in Muntinlupa City.

Pemberton strangled Laude in disgust and “in the heat of passion” after discovering she was male, dragging his victim to the bathroom and dunking her head in the toilet bowl, the court said. Pemberton was committed to the National Penitentiary near the capital, pending a decision by U.S. and Philippine authorities on his detention facility.

The case has fueled public clamor for a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries, and a pending defense accord that would increase the number of U.S. military personnel in the country for war games. The verdict comes less than a month after President Barack Obama visited Manila and pledged more military aid as the Philippines seeks U.S. support for its efforts to challenge China push to control much of the South China Sea.

The U.S. had military bases in the Philippines until 1991, when the Philippine Senate ended their leases. In 1999, the Senate ratified an agreement that allows U.S. authorities to retain custody of soldiers accused of a crime pending trial in a Philippine court.

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