Inquiries about parole and various forms of executive clemency

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,    
Who has the power to grant reprieve, commutation of sentence and executive clemency to inmates whose convictions are already final? How about parole? Who has the power to grant parole? What is an executive clemency? How can a prisoner apply for executive clemency? How about commutation of sentence?
An inmate’s family

Dear “An inmate’s family,”
A prisoner, upon application with the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP), may be granted parole, executive clemency and pardon. He may also be released from prison after service of his sentence. Executive clemency and pardon are granted by the President upon recommendation of the BPP. On the other hand, parole is granted by the BPP based on reports regarding the prisoner’s work and conduct and the study and investigation by the board (Rule 2.9, Rules on Parole, 2006 Revised Manual of the Board of Pardons and Parole).

A parole refers to the conditional release of a prisoner from a correctional institution after he has served the minimum of his prison term. A parole case may be reviewed by the board upon petition or motu propio. It must appear from the petition that the prisoner’s case is eligible for review by the BPP and that the prisoner is not disqualified from being granted parole.

Pursuant to the plenary power of the President to grant executive clemency, couched in Section 19, Article VII, of the 1987 Constitution and which states that “except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided, the President may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment,” a prisoner may file his petition for executive clemency before the BPP, which is directly under the Department of Justice.

The grant of executive clemency may be in the form of reprieve, commutation of sentence and pardon. It rests exclusively with the discretion of the President. The BPP was constituted to assist the President in exercising these powers. It is to be noted that the President’s constitutional, absolute and plenary power to grant an executive clemency to qualified prisoner may be exercised by the President even without the recommendation of the board.

Section 2 of the Amended Guidelines for Recommending Executive Clemency, dated March 7, 2006 provides, “The board may consider cases for executive clemency upon petition, or referral by the Office of the President or motu propio.”

For commutation of sentence, the prisoner should have served:

at least one-half (1/2) of the minimum of his indeterminate and/or definite prison term or the aggregate minimum of his indeterminate and/or definite prison terms.

at least ten (10) years, for prisoners sentenced to one (1)reclusion perpetua or one (1) life imprisonment, for crimes/offenses not punishable under Republic Act 7659 and other special laws.

at least twelve (12) years, for prisoners whose sentences were adjusted to forty (40) years in accordance with the provisions of Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

at least fifteen (15) years, for prisoners convicted of heinous crimes as defined in Republic Act 7659 committed on or after January 1, 1994 and sentenced to one (1) reclusion perpetua or one (1) life imprisonment.

at least seventeen (17) years, for prisoners sentenced to two (2) or more reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment even if their sentences were adjusted to 40 years in accordance with the provisions of Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

at least 20 years, for those sentenced to death which was automatically commuted or reduced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.

For conditional pardon, the prisoner should have served at least ½ of the maximum of the original indeterminate and/or definite prison term (Section 4, Ibid.)

Please be reminded, however, that a petition or application for executive clemency or parole creates no vested or enforceable rights in the persons applying for parole or executive clemency. It may or may not be granted depending on the circumstances of the case.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to


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