When Jesus Christ faced Pontius Pilate, the latter, thinking that he saw that Christ was not really a dangerous man, offered to the public the release of either Christ or Barabbas, who according to Matthew was a notorius criminal as part of a Passover custom. Much to Pilate's surprise and regret, the public chose Barabbas over Christ (I was about to say Jesus but I just found out that Barabbas' first name was also Jesus) thus making him a free man once again. What this simply means is that an executive's power to grant pardon to a criminal has been in practice since Roman times.
A week has passed and still talk about the release of condemned Claudio Teehankee, Jr. who was found guilty for the slaying of 16 year old Maureen Hultman and John Chapman is still hot news. Why not? It is as controversial and as dubious as can be. The circumstances of his release caught everyone by surprise. The victims' families were not consulted nor were they informed that the government was releasing their children's exterminator. True to form, the equally controversial Gonzales, defending the President, says: "(she) does not owe anyone any explanation or advance notice" practically implying that the power is absolute. She can give it at will. There lies the difference with Roman law. Pilate had to ask the people directly who they wanted to forgive. Teehankee's pardon was said to have undergone review by a committee. And yet, Gonzales was said to have admitted talking to brother Manuel saying "Three weeks ago bago umalis iyan (Manuel)...umalis sa Switzerland, dumaan sa office ko, hopefully sabi niya baka sakaling mapalaya ang kapatid niya (Three weeks ago, before leaving for Switzerland, Teehankee's brother went to my office and said hopefully I can facilitate his brother's release)." Does this in any way say that it was a committee who has recommended pardon?
I am not totally against presidential pardon. This is if the spirit of the power to give it is justified. After all, the point behind putting men behind bars is not really to avenge but to give him time to think about what he has done, suffer the consequences of his actions and repent. When these have been met, and the person, after a good showing of good behavior, can be given back his freedom. Why deprive him of his liberty until death? This brings to the question of the release of Teehankee. Has he shown repentance? Has he paid his dues to society? I don't think so. Being confined in prison with all the amenities of a luxurious life, or so it seems, is not penance. It is a long vacation. Teehankee was condemned to serve two life terms. He has only completed 14 years in prison living in a "rich man's kubol, "a special quarters built by ex-congressman Jalosjos... (that)features a queen-size bed, a refrigerator, a private bathroom with hot and cold water and, not least, a 42-inch LCD television set with cable service." Sheesh, I don't even have a queen-size bed!
AS De Quiros points out in his column, "the murder took place as a result of a "power trip"...the shooter wanting to prove to the world and himself he was in command, he was in charge, he was the man." Now, come to think about it, most of the prisoners in Muntinlupa live miserably in their hell holes. Teehankee did not. With his release, thanks to the president, he just affirmed this belief that he has done away with murder.