Rody’s pardon offer to backfire—ex-dean
THE former dean of the San Beda College of Law on Thursday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to stop offering to pardon any police officer convicted of killing drug suspects, saying this erodes the criminal justice system.
Ranhilio Aquino, who is now vice president for administrative services at Cagayan State University, warned that Duterte’s statement may even embolden unscrupulous law enforcers to kill indiscriminately in the belief that they will be pardoned.
“I think it erodes the criminal justice system in the country. I don’t think it serves the purposes of law enforcement,” Aquino said in a radio interview.
He also said an executive clemency may be granted only after the accused is convicted with finality by the Supreme Court, and there must be an overriding reason for the pardon.
He said this was not a matter to be decided on a President’s whim.
“You usually do that with plenty of care, circumspection and you must present overriding value on why you are doing this because you are actually entering the threshold of the powers of another branch of government,” Aquino said.
Aquino urged Duterte, who is an alumnus of San Beda, to be circumspect in his pronouncements.
Duterte has said he will pursue his war on illegal drugs despite criticism from human rights groups, the United Nations and the European Union.
On Wednesday, Duterte reiterated his promise of legal protection, including the grant of pardon, to law enforcers at the frontline on the war against illegal drugs just days after several policemen led by Supt. Marvin Marcos were arrested for the killing last year of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa and another inmate inside their detention cell in Leyte.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, however, said he doubts Duterte will be able to grant an absolute pardon to Marcos and the other policemen accused of killing Espinosa.
“With the kind of justice system that we have, the prosecution of cases takes several years,” he said, noting that the trial might still be going on when Duterte’s term ends.
Senator Grace Poe said while the presidential power to pardon convicted criminals is beyond question, but described Duterte’s statement as unfortunate.
“The President’s pronouncement counters all our efforts to strengthen our legal institutions to ensure that only the guilty are prosecuted and convicted after a judicial process,” Poe said.
“It could send a wrong signal to law enforcers that while they may be enforcing legal orders from their superiors, they could altogether ignore the rule of law in properly carrying out such orders knowing that pardon awaits them,” she said.
“Corollary to this, it could dampen the enthusiasm and zeal of those in the other pillars of the judicial system to pursue the cases against the police criminals knowing that all their efforts would be in vain,” she added.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said the President’s remarks were alarming.
In a related development, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines urged the President to let barangay elections push through in October, instead of postponing them and appointing village officials.
“Let the people decide whom they want as barangay leaders. Let the law be followed instead of skirting it,” the CBCP committee on public affairs said.
Duterte has earlier said he wants to postpone barangay elections in October again and to declare all village posts vacant in a bid to stop “narco-politics.”
The President also said he is willing to compromise with Church leaders and allow them to nominate individuals for the posts.
But the CBCP said it cannot engage in partisan political activity.
“Even if the nominees will be named by the religious sector, this practice of appointing them smacks of patronage politics,” said Fr. Jerome Secillano, who heads the committee.
The Church-backed watchdog group Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting also said resetting barangay elections would need a valid reason determined through a proper process.
Amid growing criticism of extrajudicial killings in the anti-drug war, the Philippine National Police said Thursday that the number of human rights cases against policemen has been going down since 2014.
PNP Human Rights Affairs Office director Chief Supt. Dennis Siervo said that in 2014, there were 174 personnel who facedhuman rights cases. In 2015, this went down to 131 and in 2016, there were only 105 cases recorded.
”So there is a downward trend on personnel involved in human rights violations,” Siervo said.
He also denied that the all-out war on drugs would increase the number of human rights violations.
”If you think the war on illegal drugs will escalate the number of human rights violations, the statistics show it did not,” Siervo said. With Vito Barcelo, PNA