Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted of homicide for the killing of Jennifer Laude in a motel in October, 2014, after they met in a bar following joint US military exercises near the city of Olongapo.
Judge Roline Jinez Jabalde sentenced Pemberton to six to 12 years in jail — after the charge was lowered from murder which carries a heavier penalty — citing mitigating circumstances including Laude not revealing her gender identity.
The court heard that Pemberton and Laude agreed to have sex after meeting, but that the drunken Marine turned violent when he discovered Laude still had male genitals.
Pemberton acted out of “passion and obfuscation” the court said, adding that “in the heat of passion, he arm-locked the deceased, and dunked his (her) head in the toilet.”
“The killing of Laude amounted only to homicide” and did not have the legal elements of murder, including treachery, the court said.
A lawyer for the Laude family, Harry Roque, said he was angry that the sentence was reduced on those grounds.
Another family lawyer, Virgie Suarez, said that under the decision, Pemberton would serve at least six years and that authorities would have the option of holding him longer, depending on his behaviour.
The judge ruled that the American would be held temporarily at the national penitentiary until the two countries decide where he should serve his sentence.
Pemberton’s homicide conviction is the first under a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries signed in 1998, covering the legal liability of US troops taking part in military operations in the Philippines.
Leftist activists have used the Pemberton case to attack the VFA and the close defence ties between the United States and its former colony, the Philippines.