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PIA Press Release

Will pardoning Estrada nullify his guilt?

Manila (20 September) -- Seven days after his conviction on charges of plunder, former President Joseph Estrada demands full pardon, nothing less. He says whatever offer of executive clemency comes his way "should not be conditional and (it should be) without any admission of guilt."

Lawyers and legislators allied with Estrada have also been clamoring for either amnesty or pardon, claiming that executive clemency on the former president is the only way to achieve closure on the issue.

Criminal Law professor and U.P. Institute of Human Rights Director Ibarra Gutierrez however says, "Since there has already been a conviction, unless the decision is reversed, then it stands. Meaning, Estrada is really guilty of plunder. So legally speaking, as far as closure is concerned, it can end right there. Regardless of whether or not Estrada serves out his sentence."

He adds, "Pardon simply means Estrada will not be made to serve out the penalty for the crime for which he was convicted. But it does not erase his conviction. Furthermore, pardon is an act of liberality on the part of whoever is the sitting president, in this case President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. President Arroyo cannot be forced to grant pardon if she does not want to."

Since even lawyers in their statements to media seem confused as to whether it is amnesty or pardon that applies to Estrada, Atty. Gutierrez explains that "Amnesty applies only to a class of persons and only for political crimes such as rebellion. Since Estrada is just one person and the crime for which he was convicted was not a political crime, pardon and not amnesty is the more appropriate thing to talk about."

"Amnesty," he adds, "is a blanket declaration that erases the guilt of a class of persons charged with political crimes. Pardon on the other hand erases only the consequences of a guilty verdict in non-political crimes. Accordingly, there can be no pardon without a declaration of guilt, because whereas amnesty resolves the issue of whether or not a person committed a crime, pardon only addresses the issue of whether or not a person who was already convicted of a crime should be made to serve out his sentence."

There are two kinds of pardon: absolute and conditional pardon. A conditional pardon, as the term implies, imposes conditions upon the convict, such as good behavior. Accordingly, a conditional pardon requires acceptance by the person to be pardoned because there are conditions to which he must assent.

When it comes to absolute pardon, Atty. Gutierrez notes that legal experts are divided on the issue of acceptance. He says some lawyers are of the opinion that no acceptance is necessary because there are no conditions attached anyway. His own view however is "since pardon is a contract between the pardoning authority, in this case President Arroyo, and the convict, in this case former President Estrada, the general rule is there has to be acceptance, just like in any other contract." (PIA) [top]

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