Let’s talk sense about the presidential pardon power


The grant by President Duterte of an absolute and unconditional pardon to movie actor Robin Padilla this week has gotten a lot of media space, not surprisingly because the grantee is a box- office celebrity and entertainer.

Instead of milking the event for publicity, the Palace and the media would do better to explain to the public the reasons for the pardon, and the nature of the presidential pardon power.

That power is embodied in Sec. 19, Article VII of the Constitution, which reads:

“Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the president may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.
“He shall also have the power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all the members of the Congress.”

There’s a reason why pardon and amnesty are mentioned in the same article. The Charter framers meant to draw a distinction between the two. Amnesty overlooks the offense, while pardon remits [cancels]the punishment.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre was guilty of hyperbole when he said in a comment on the Padilla pardon:
“The power of the President to extend pardon or parole to any convicted person is absolute… nobody can question it,” he said.

The power is not absolute. According to the Constitution framer and author Jose N. Nolledo, the presidential grant of reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remittance of fines and forfeitures, is subject to the following qualifications:

Such pardoning power does not extend to and cannot cover cases of impeachment.

No pardon, amnesty, parole or suspension of sentence for violation of election laws, rules and regulations shall
be granted by the president without the favorable recommendation of the Commission on Elections.

To these two, we add the prohibition on granting pardons as a quid pro quo — as a compensation for something. This has been raised in regard to the Padilla pardon, because of what the actor did for DU30’s election campaign.

Generally, our presidents have normally not been challenged on their exercise of the pardoning power.

In the United States, several presidents have gotten into trouble for granting pardons under questionable circumstances and on dubious grounds, as when President Gerald Ford pardoned President Richard Nixon for his Watergate transgressions, immediately after he was sworn to office.

The broad rationale for the pardon power has been stated by no less than the US Supreme Court: “The pardon power is granted [t]o the [president]. . ., and it is granted without limit’’ (United States v. Klein). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declared that ‘’[a]pardon . . . is . . . the determination of the ultimate authority that the public welfare will be better served by [the pardon]. . .’’

A president may conclude a pardon or commutation is warranted for several reasons: the desire to restore full citizenship rights, including voting, to people who have served their sentences and lived within the law since; a belief that a sentence was excessive or unjust; personal circumstances that warrant compassion; or other unique circumstances.

It is in this light that the public should understand the pardon for Padilla.

The absolute pardon was designed to restore Padilla’s civil and political rights, which means he may now run for public office, exercise his right to vote, and can be appointed to public office.


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  1. Lahat ng tao ay nagkakamali at nagkakasala. Si Robin Padilla ay lumabag sa batas at siya ay naparusahan. Tapos na ang kanyang sentensiya. Marami din siyang naitulong sa mga mahihirap katulad ng bigas para sa mga magsasaka sa Kidapawan. Pero kahit nakalaya na siya ay pinarurusahan pa din siya sa pagtanggal ng kanyang karapatang bumoto at kumandidato. Itong hindi makatarungang parusa na ito ang inalis ni PPRD.

  2. Dear Mr. President (Mayor) Du30,

    Not that bad boy actor Robin Padilla does not deserve a total pardon, but may I invite your attention to the gross discrepancy to the criminal justice and penal system that will not escape the attention of Calamard’s UN ICC Team, if they visit the RP. difficulty proving EJK’s but they will visit and then condemn the undeniable deplorable prison conditions in the Philippines. These constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in addition also illegal detention which is unconstitutional under our law and also violates international human rights.

    Illegal detention because a large segment of reformed inmates, meaning those who have served their minimum sentence with good behavior are still not released under the rules of the revised penal code. Why are they still in jail? Why are most still serving the maximum sentence as if they were hardened criminals?

    Why do hardened criminals get priority in pardon, parole commutation? Because they have higher prison status? Hardened criminals are even allowed by the prison authorities to run the prisons and get out earlier. This corruption and incompetence in running our penal system must stop.

    It is a good sign that Du30 is studying freeing the 80 year old inmates, but that’s not enough. Penal reviews are prone to years of bureaucratic delay worse than the courts. He must expedite the process before they die waiting.

    The president should also expand the scope of those to be freed since penal law already specifies 70 as the requisite age for humanitarian senior citizen inmates release. The requisite age to qualify a senior citizen under the law is 60. So what more to study?

    Such irony to fear that these decrepit old inmates who have paid their debt to society, pose little danger to the public while a teenager can commit murder and not go to jail because the law says he is a minor. That is the defect and stupidity of our law.

    For crime there must be punishment, but meted justly in proportion to the crime committed. He can give justice to Robin Padilla with a stroke of a pen, he should do the same to return the thousands of overstaying inmates to their loved ones, or at least to the freedom they once knew.

  3. If you are the President, would you appoint somebody like Robin Padilla to a Government Office/. A knowledgeable one will not, but President Duterte doesn’t believed in the norm, and probably will do it/ Well 6 years under Him will soon fly very fast so just hang on.