Press Release
April 3, 2009

Chiz calls for transparency in executive clemency grants

Opposition Senator Chiz Escudero on Friday called for more transparency in the series of processes that leads to a grant of executive clemency or presidential pardon to convicted criminals.

Escudero said that while the power to grant clemencies and pardons resides absolutely with the Office of the President, it should be an exercise in transparency in order to prevent any speculations of impropriety.

"While the power to pardon and commute sentences is absolute, it should be exercised with utmost transparency in order to afford all interested parties the opportunity to be heard and their position and opinion be considered before the President decides," he said.

The senator issued the statement in response to the reported grant of executive clemency to Rodolfo Manalili, the mastermind of the "Cochise-Beebom" double murder, by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Manalili, along with four others, had been sentenced to a double life term for the abduction and killing of Ernesto "Cochise" Bernabe II and his girlfriend Ana Lourdes "Beebom" Castaños in 1990.

Escudero said that the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP), which recommends clemency for prisoners, should make public its actions on applications made by qualified convicts.

"The BPP is the one that's tasked to come up with recommendations on who is qualified or not to receive the presidential reprieve. It should inform all interested parties, particularly the families of the victims, whenever someone is being evaluated for possible clemency or pardon," he said.

He added that the families of the victims can file an opposition to any application before the BPP or even in courts, if warranted.

"Informing the families of victims must be given an opportunity to oppose or build a case against the application for clemency, if they so choose. What happens now is we are being surprised by the grant of clemencies left and right," Escudero said.

The senator explained that while the President has the sole prerogative to grant clemencies, she can also choose not to approve any application.

"It is not ministerial on her part, as what Anthony Golez is saying. It is still discretionary. That is why it is important that she hears all the sides before she makes a decision. The grant now becomes an informed judgment," he said.

"This is one government process where transparency is of utmost importance. The grant of clemency to a prisoner evokes strong emotions, especially from the families of the victims. We should not take this lightly, as this administration does.

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