Primer on the President’s power to grant Pardon

What is pardon?

Pardon is “an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed. It is the private, though official act of the executive magistrate, delivered to the individual for whose benefit it is intended, and not communicated officially to the Court. A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance.”

What is the effect of pardon?

While a pardon has generally been regarded as blotting out the existence of guilt so that in the eye of the law the offender is as innocent as though he never committed the offense, it does not operate for all purposes. The very essence of a pardon is forgiveness or remission of guilt. Pardon implies guilt. It does not erase the fact of the commission of the crime and the conviction thereof. It does not wash out the moral stain. It involves forgiveness and not forgetfulness.

The better considered cases regard full pardon (at least one not based on the offender’s innocence) as relieving the party from all the punitive consequences of his criminal act, including the disqualifications or disabilities based on the finding of guilt. But it relieves him from nothing more. “To say, however, that the offender is a “new man”, and “as innocent as if he had never committed the offense;” is to ignore the difference between the crime and the criminal. A person adjudged guilty of an offense is a convicted criminal, though pardoned; he may be deserving of punishment, though left unpunished; and the law may regard him as more dangerous to society than one never found guilty of crime, though it places no restraints upon him following his conviction.”

A pardon looks to the future. It is not retrospective. It makes no amends for the past. It affords no relief for what has been suffered by the offender. It does not impose upon the government any obligation to make reparation for what has been suffered. “Since the offense has been established by judicial proceedings, that which has been done or suffered while they were in force is presumed to have been rightfully done and justly suffered, and no satisfaction for it can be required.”

What is the constitutional basis of pardon?

The power to pardon, which is a form of executive clemency, is given to the President under Section 19, Article VII of the Constitution. It 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.

What are the Constitutional limitations on the grant of pardon?

The limitations provided under the Constitution are: (1) No pardon may be granted in impeachment cases; (2) No pardon may be granted when otherwise provided under the Constitution, specifically Sec. 5, Article IX-C, which provides that “No pardon, amnesty, parole or suspension of sentence for violation of elections laws, rules, and regulations shall be granted by the President without the favorable recommendation of the [COMELEC]“; and (3) It may only be granted “after conviction by final judgment”.

How is pardon different from probation?

Probation and pardon are not the same. Probation is “a disposition under which a defendant, after conviction and sentence, is released subject to conditions imposed by the court and to the supervision of a probation officer.” Probation is a part of the judicial power, while pardon is a part of the executive power. The suspension of the sentence under probation simply postpones the judgment of the court temporarily or indefinitely, but the conviction and liability following it, and the civil disabilities, remain and become operative when judgment is rendered.

What is parole?

A parole is a conditional pardon. It refers to the conditional release of an offender from a correctional institution after he serves the minimum term of his prison sentence. It does not have the effect of extinguishing the criminal liability of the offender.

How is pardon different from commutation and reprieve?

“Commutation” is a remission of a part of the punishment; a substitution of a less penalty for the one originally imposed.

A “reprieve” or “respite” is the withholding of the sentence for an interval of time, a postponement of execution, a temporary suspension of execution.

What are the more famous acts of pardon/executive clemency?

In 2007, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo granted pardon in favor of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. In 2008, President Arroyo granted pardon to Claudio Teehankee, Jr.

Sources: Section 3, Presidential Decree No. 968, also known as the “Probation Law”; Monsanto vs. Factoran, Jr., G.R. No. 78239, 9 February 1989; People vs. Vera, G.R. No. L-45685, 16 November 1937; Castrodes vs. Cubelo, G.R. No. L-47033, 16 June 1978; People vs. Abesamis, G.R. No. 140985, 28 August 2007.

3 Responses to “Primer on the President’s power to grant Pardon”


  1. 1 dannybuntu Oct 8th, 2008 at 3:09 am

    Hello, my name is danny garcia or dannybuntu. I registered a word press account just to reply to this blog post. I am new to wordpress and found it strange that I can make a post in your blog – I don’t know. But I didn’t click on the publish button anyway.

    The subject matter that you posted is clear and enlightening. Do you have any opinion as to why the President granted the pardon aside from the fact that she can?

    Thanks

    dannybuntu

  2. 2 esie_32 Oct 21st, 2008 at 4:23 am

    Can I ask you a question about pardon?

    I have read a case (sorry,I forgot the citation) that says that the pardoning power of the President is beyond judicial review. Anyway, in that case, what was granted was a tax amnesty. I believe you distinguished the two in your article.

    Anyway, you might have heard about the recent certiorari case filed by Atty. Ernesto Francisco in the grant of pardon to Teehankee. DOJ sec Raul Gonzales said that one of the grounds why it should be dismissed outright is that the Court cannot review the pardon granted by the Executive based on the principle of separation of powers. Could you please enlighten me on this matter?

    If there is indeed grave abuse of discretion, can the court declare the pardon void?

  3. 3 longog gabriel b Nov 3rd, 2008 at 9:31 am

    yes i wonder why how could the supreme court decide in that kind of cases..?


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