Executive clemency

What are the powers of the Executive when it comes to granting clemency? What is the difference between pardon and amnesty? Here are six cases on executive clemency that define what pardon is and how it is different from amnesty, and what the effects of pardon and amnesty are.

Barrioquinto vs Fernandez, G.R. L-1278

On October 2, 1946, the President issued Administrative Order no. 11, creating Amnesty Commissions which were authorized to hear and investigate cases of those who should be given amnesty for alleged crimes committed during the Japanese Occupation.
Barrioquinto and Loreto Jimenez applied for amnesty, but deny having committed the crime of murder with which they were charged. Barrioquinto was at large, (but was later apprehended) Jimenez was sentenced to life imprisonment. Before the period for appeal had expired, Jimenez became aware of Proclamation No. 8, which grants amnesty in favor of all persons who may be charged with an act penalized under the RPC in furtherance of resistance to the enemy or against persons aiding in the war efforts of the enemy and committed from December 8, 1941, to the date when each particular area where the offense was committed was liberated from enemy control and occupation.
On January 9, 1947, the Amnesty Commission issued an order returning the cases of the petitioners to the Court of First Instance of Zamboanga, without deciding on the case saying that since the Barrioquinto and Jimenez deny having committed the crime, they cannot invoke the benefits of amnesty.
The respondents and the dissent say that the amnesty courts must not decide on cases where the defendants have not pleaded guilty to the offense charged. But the Court said that that would be to defeat the purpose for which the Amnesty commissions were established. Since there is no law which gives immunity to a person for whatever offense admitted before the amnesty commission in case the offense does not come within the terms of the proclamation and he is not given amnesty, few would take the risk of submitting their cases.
Besides even if it were true that Agapito Hipolito was the one who killed the victim, the accused could still be found guilty of being principals or accessories who may be entitled to the benefits of amnesty if it could be established that they were members of the same group of guerillas who killed the victim in furtherance of resistance.
HELD: Respondents 14th guerilla amnesty commission members ordered to proceed to hear and decide applications for amnesty.
This case differentiates between amnesty and pardon.

Vera v People, 7 SCRA 152

Vera, Figueras, Ambas, Florido, Bayran and 92 others (97 in all) were charged with the complex crime of kidnapping with murder of Amadeo Lozanes. They invoked the benefits of the amnesty proclamation of the president and the case was referred to the 8th guerilla amnesty commission. none of the petitioners admitted having committed the crime. Vera was the only one who took the witness stand and denied having killed lozanes. The commission said it could not take cognizance of the case because the benefits of amnesty could only be invoked by defendants in a criminal case who, admitting commission of the crime, plead that the said crime was committed in pursuance of the resistance movement and perpetrated against persons who aided the enemy during the Japanese occupation.
When Vera appealed, the amnesty commission denied the appeal, adding that the facts of the case showed that the victim was a member of another guerilla group and that the murder seemed to have stemmed from a rivalry between the two groups.
Vera brought the case to the Court of Appeals, asking the CA to also rule, one way or another, of the murder case. But the CA ruled that amnesty applies only to those who had admitted the fact but said they should not be punished for the crime done was in pursuance of resistance to the enemy. It also said it could not take cognizance of the murder case because that came from the amnesty commission, which had no jurisdiction over the murder case.
The case was brought to the Court on appeal, which cited People vs Llanita, which said that it was inconsistent for an appellant to justify an act or seek forgiveness for something which he said he has not committed.
Held: Amnesty presupposes the commission of a crime, and when the accused maintains that he has not committed a crime, he cannot have any use for amnesty. Where an amnesty proclamation imposes certain conditions, as in this case, it is incumbent upon the accused to prove the existence of such conditions. The invocation of amnesty is in the nature of a plea of confession and avoidance, which means that the pleader admits the allegations against him but disclaims liability therefor on account of intervening facts which, if proved, would bring the crime charged within the scope of the amnesty proclamation.

Cristobal vs Labrador, 71 Phil 34

Cristobal vs Labrador is a petition for a review of the lower court’s decision on an election case.

On March 15 1930, Teofilo Santos was convicted of estafa and sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and the accessories, and to return the amount taken. Despite this, Santos continued to be a registered elector in Malabon, Rizal, and between 1934 and 1937 even served as municipal president. On August 22 1938 the Election Code was approved, which had a provision that disqualifies Santos from voting, having been declared by final judgment guilty of a crime against property. Santos applied with the President for an absolute pardon, which was given him on December 24 1939. The pardon said that his full civil and political rights were restored except that his right to hold public office was limited only to positions which involved no money or property responsibility.
On November 16, 1940, Cristobal filed a petition to have Santos excluded from the voters’ list on the basis of sec 94 of the Commonwealth Act no. 357. The court ruled that the pardon given Santos excluded him from the disqualification created by the New Election Code.
Cristobal appealed, arguing that the pardoning power does not extend to the enjoyment of political rights, for that would allow the President to encroach on the powers of the legislature, in effect exempting some people from the effects of the law. Cristobal said the pardoning power of the Executive does not apply to legislative prohibitions and would amount to an unlawful exercise of the Executive of a legislative function.
The Court ruled that the Constitution imposes only two limits on the power of clemency: that it be exercised after conviction, and that it does not extend to cases of impeachment. Subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution, the pardoning power cannot be restricted or controlled by legislative action.
Held: Saying that paragraph b of section 94 of Commonwealth Act no 357 does not fall within the purview of the pardoning power of the Chief Executive would lead to the impairment of this power.

Pelobello vs Palatino, 72 Phil 441

In 1912, Gregorio Palatino was convicted of a crime for which he was sentenced to imprisonment for 2 years, four mos and one day, disqualified from voting and being voted upon.
In 1915, however, he was granted a conditional pardon by the Governor General and on Dec 25, 1940, an absolute pardon by the President.
Pellobello instituted quo warranto proceedings questioning his right to hold office as mayor elect of Torrijos, Marinduque province. It was based on sec 94 (a) of the Election Code.
Issue: Whether or not the absolute pardon granted exempted him from the disqualification incident to criminal conviction under paragraph a of sec 94 of the Election Code, the pardon having been granted after the election but before the date fixed by law for assuming office.
Ratio: Citing Cristobal v Labrador, the court held that the pardoning power is only subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution, and cannot be controlled or restricted by legislative action.
HELD: thereafter he had exercised the right of suffrage, was elected councilor of Torrijos, Marinduque, for the period 1918 to 1921; was elected municipal president of that municipality three times in succession (1922-1931); and finally elected mayor of the municipality in the election for local officials in December, 1940. Under these circumstances, it is evident that the purpose in granting him absolute pardon was to enable him to assume the position in deference to the popular will; and the pardon was thus extended on the date mentioned hereinabove and before the date fixed in section 4 of the Election Code for assuming office. We see no reason for defeating this wholesome purpose by a restrictive judicial interpretation of the constitutional grant to the Chief Executive. We, therefore, give efficacy to executive action and disregard what at bottom is a technical objection. JUDGMENT OF THE LOWER COURT AFFIRMED.

In Re Lontok, 43 Phil 293

Marcelino Lontok, a lawyer, was convicted of bigamy and sentenced to 8 years imprisonment on February 27 1918. This was confirmed by the Supreme Court on September 18, 1919.
On February 9, 1921, he was pardoned by the Governor General “on the condition that he shall not again be guilty of any misconduct.”
A case was filed by the Attorney General to have him disbarred because he has convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.
Lontok however argued that pardon “reaches the offense and blots it out so that he may not be looked upon as guilty of it.”
Ratio: When proceedings to strike an attorney’s name from the rolls are founded on, and depend alone, on a statute making the fact of a conviction for a felony ground for disbarment, it has been held that a pardon operates to wipe out the conviction and is a bar to any proceeding for the disbarment of the attorney after the pardon has been granted.
Where proceedings to disbar an attorney are founded on the professional misconduct involved in a transaction which has culminated in a conviction of felony, it has been held that while the effect of the pardon is to relieve him of the penal consequences of his act, it does not operate as a bar to the disbarment proceeding, inasmuch as the criminal acts may nevertheless constitute proof that the attorney does not possess a good moral character and is not a fit or proper person to retain his license to practice law.
Ex parte Garland was cited, in which a lawyer pardoned by the president being a member of the confederate congress during the secession of the South was allowed to practice law, although lawyers were supposed to take an oath saying they have never aided any government hostile to the US.
It was held that the exclude the petitioner from the practice of law for the offense would be to enforce a punishment for the offense, when he has already been pardoned for it. This the court had no right to do.
HELD: Petition of the Attorney General cannot be granted, and the proceedings must be dismissed.

Torres vs Gonzales, 152 SCRA 273
Wilfredo Torres was convicted of a crime in 1979 and sentenced to serve a prison term of 11 years, 10 mos and 22 days to 38 years, 9 mos and 1 day. He was given a conditional pardon on April 18 1979 on the condition that he would not again violate any of the penal laws of the Philippines.
On May 21 1986, the Board of Pardons and parole resolve the recommend the cancellation of the pardon, having found out that Torres has been charged with 20 counts of estafa at the Quezon City Trial Court, convicted of sedition by the QC Trial Court on June 26 1985 and had been accused of other crimes such as swindling, grave threats, grave coercion, illegal possession of firearms, etc. He was arrested and recommitted on October 10 1986, and confined in Muntinlupa to serve the unexpired portion of his sentence.
Issue: Whether or not a conviction is necessary to revoke a conditional pardon
Ratio: Torres argued that he has not violated the conditional pardon given him because he has not been convicted by final judgment. At the same time, he said he was denied his right to due process as he was not given the opportunity to be heard before he was arrested and recommitted to prison.
Citing Tesoro, the Court however said that the since the pardon was extended by the Executive, the determination of whether or not it has been breached is up to the Executive, not to the Courts.
This Court in effect held that since the petitioner was a convict “who had already been seized in a constitutional way, been confronted by his accusers and the witnesses against him -, been convicted of crime and been sentenced to punishment therefor,” he was not constitutionally entitled to another judicial determination of whether he had breached the condition of his parole by committing a subsequent offense.
The executive clemency under it is extended upon the conditions named in it, and he accepts it upon those conditions. One of these is that the governor may withdraw his grace in a certain contingency, and another is that the governor shall himself determine when that contingency has arisen. It is as if the convict, with full competency to bind himself in the premises, had expressly contracted and agreed, that, whenever the governor should conclude that he had violated the conditions of his parole, an executive order for his arrest and remandment to prison should at once issue, and be conclusive upon him.
The status of our case law on the matter under consideration may be summed up in the following propositions:
1. The grant of pardon and the determination of the terms and conditions of a conditional pardon are purely executive acts which are not subject to judicial scrutiny.
2. The determination of the occurrence of a breach of a condition of a pardon, and the proper consequences of such breach, may be either a purely executive act, not subject to judicial scrutiny under Section 64 (i) of the Revised Administrative Code; or it may be a judicial act consisting of trial for and conviction of violation of a conditional pardon under Article 159 of the Revised Penal Code. Where the President opts to proceed under Section 64 (i) of the Revised Administrative Code, no judicial pronouncement of guilt of a subsequent crime is necessary, much less conviction therefor by final judgment of a court, in order that a convict may be recommended for the violation of his conditional pardon.
Because due process is not semper et ubique judicial process, and because the conditionally pardoned convict had already been accorded judicial due process in his trial and conviction for the offense for which he was conditionally pardoned, Section 64 (i) of the Revised Administrative Code is not afflicted with a constitutional vice.
The Court however noted that Torres must still be convicted by final judgment of the crimes with which he was charged before the criminal penalty can be imposed upon him.
Succinctly put, in proceeding against a convict who has been conditionally pardoned and who is alleged to have breached the conditions of his pardon, the Executive Department has two options: (i) to proceed against him under Section 64 (i) of the Revised Administrative Code; or (ii) to proceed against him under Article 159 of the Revised Penal Code which imposes the penalty of prision correccional, minimum period, upon a convict who “having been granted conditional pardon by the Chief Executive, shall violate any of the conditions of such pardon.” Here, the President has chosen to proceed against the petitioner under Section 64 (i) of the Revised Administrative Code. That choice is an exercise of the President’s executive prerogative and is not subject to judicial scrutiny.
Judgment: Petition dismissed. The decision to take back the pardon is valid.

** Sec 64 (i) of the Revised Administrative Code: To grant to convicted persons reprieves or pardons, either plenary or partial, conditional, or unconditional; to suspend sentences without pardon, remit fines, and order the discharge of any convicted person upon parole, subject to such conditions as he may impose; and to authorize the arrest and reincarceration of any such person who, in his judgment, shall fail to comply with the condition, or conditions of his pardon, parole, or suspension of sentence.

ART. 159, RPC. Other Cases of Evasion of Service of Sentence. The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon the convict who, having been granted conditional pardon by the Chief Executive, shall violate any of the conditions of such pardon. However, if the penalty remitted by the granting of such pardon be higher than six years, the convict shall then suffer the unexpired portion of his original sentence.


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