20,000 more deserving of pardon—chaplain


By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:27:00 10/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Twenty percent of some 20,000 inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City are more deserving of executive clemency than convicted murderer Claudio Teehankee Jr., according to the chaplain of the state penitentiary.

But “qualipaid” convicts like Teehankee are given priority over qualified prisoners, Msgr. Robert Olaguer told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday.

He defined “qualipaid” convicts as those with sufficient money and connections to have their applications for clemency processed quickly, and said the term was “actually coined by prisoners who had grown tired of waiting for their pardon.”

“Yes. There are at least 4,000 inmates who are more worthy and qualified to be released than Mr. Teehankee,” Olaguer said in reply to a question posed by the Inquirer.

“Sadly, ‘qualipaid’ inmates get more attention than the qualified ones,” he said.

Asked to explain how money could have changed hands to bring about a convict’s freedom, he said: “Only the inmates know about it.”

Olaguer also said that together with volunteers, he and his staff had been sending letters to President Macapagal-Arroyo “almost every day” to remind her of the applications for pardon of poor inmates.

But not one of the letters has merited a reply, he said.

“Maybe we need somebody to remind Malacañang about our requests. That’s when you need the right connections,” he said.

Nothing irregular

Now 62, Teehankee was convicted of the shooting deaths in 1991 of 16-year-old Maureen Hultman and Roland Chapman and the near-fatal shooting of Jussi Leino.

Teehankee was granted executive clemency by Ms Arroyo late last month. He slipped out of the NBP complex on Wednesday night after spending several days in a fully furnished room owned by former Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos, a convicted child rapist who now stays in “living-out” quarters in Katarungan Village.

However, Olaguer pointed out that there was nothing irregular in the President’s decision to grant executive clemency to Teehankee and other influential prisoners.

Olaguer said that like other convicts, Teehankee deserved clemency because he had served more than 12 years—the required minimum prison term for those applying for the privilege.

The chaplain said he and the other convicts were pleased by Teehankee’s release.

“Whenever an inmate is allowed to go, all those inside are happy. But they also ask, ‘What about us?’” he said.

Changed man

Olaguer also said that during Teehankee’s incarceration, he noticed a major change in the convict’s behavior.

From being reserved and aloof, the man became outgoing and learned to get along with poor inmates, the chaplain said. “He focused on playing tennis and ping pong. It helped him a lot to shed his old behavior.”

Olaguer said Teehankee involved himself in helping his fellow convicts through church-based activities and Jalosjos’ Lamb of God Foundation.

He was also a volunteer worker in a feeding program for elderly inmates, and was always present at the Wednesday novena, Olaguer said, adding:

“Now that he’s free, I hope he will use his chance to make himself a productive member of the community. I hope he will really change for the better.”

Even Go

The chaplain also said even Rolito Go, who was convicted of shooting dead 25-year-old Eldon Maguan over a traffic row in 1991, was likewise worthy of clemency.

“That’s the President’s prerogative. I don’t see any abuse of power there. But she had shortcomings with other inmates,” he said. “She failed to give attention to other inmates.”

For instance, Olaguer said, Ms Arroyo has yet to act on the application for pardon of the 13 remaining prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. and Rolando Galman.

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