MANILA — Only 4 of the 139 executive clemencies that President Rodrigo Duterte has issued so far during his term went to foreigners, the justice department said Wednesday, following criticism of the pardon for a US soldier who killed a Filipina transgender woman.
Of these 139 conditional and absolute pardons since 2016, 135 went to Filipinos. The 4 that were for foreigners included 2 that were under a prisoner swap deal with the UAE, said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
“This is a lot more than than the total number of pardons given during the previous administration,” he told ANC. “Mas maluwag ang Presidente [Duterte] sa pagbibigay ng pardons.”
(President Duterte is more lenient in giving pardons.)
Around 90 or 91 other inmates had their application for early release under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) processed from September last year until last month, Guevarra said.
Before this, GCTA applications were temporarily suspended after media reports bared that some heinous crime convicts walked free due to the scheme.
The justice and interior departments' new GCTA rules removed “ambiguities,” Guevarra said. Some issues remain unresolved, including the grant of GCTA for those convicted of heinous crimes, he added.
“For those not affected by these issues, the processing ought to have continued and I presume na simple lang ang kaso and wala namang connection sa mga complication that have pointed out, patuloy ang pagga-grant ng GCTA,” said Guevarra.
The justice department is also following Duterte’s order to expedite the paroles for elderly prisoners to decongest penitentiaries during the coronavirus pandemic.
Duterte earlier this week pardoned US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, who has been in prison since the October 2014 killing of Jennifer Laude, whom he met at a bar while on break from military exercises in the northern city of Olongapo.
A local court ruled last week that Pemberton qualified for early release due to the GCTA, but was still being held due to an appeal. Duterte's pardon clears all legal obstacles to the soldier's release, despite him serving just over half his 10-year sentence.
The Laude family lawyer condemned the decision, calling it a "mockery" of the country's justice system.
"This is another injustice -- not only to Jennifer Laude and family but a grave injustice to the Filipino people," Virginia Suarez said in a statement. "This is a travesty of Philippine sovereignty and democracy."
The pardon shows that Duterte’s administration sides with power, Vice President Leni Robredo said Tuesday.
“Napakaraming mga Pilipino na mas magaan ang sala, ngunit hindi nabibigyang-pansin o nabibigyan ng ganitong uri ng pribilehiyo. Ang nakikita natin: Kapag mahirap, may parusa; kapag mayaman at nasa poder, malaya," she said.
(There are many Filipinos whose cases are lighter, but do not get attention or this kind of privilege. What we see is that those who are poor are punished; those who are wealthy and in power are free.)
-- With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse