Senator Leila de Lima filed for presidential pardon to five high-profile inmates inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in 2015, when she was still the secretary of Department of Justice (DOJ). More than a year later, these inmates stood as witnesses against de Lima in the recent House inquiry about the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the NBP.
As revealed by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano this Tuesday, October 18, the Bureau of Pardons and Parole (BPP) filed applications for presidential pardon or executive clemency for former police officers Engelberto Durano and Nonilo Arile, Jaime Patcho, Jojo Baligad and Chinese drug lord, Vicente Sy during the administration of Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino.
“They were given immunity and witness protection. We should keep watch over these five (inmates) because they might be released any time.” Alejano said, suggesting that the Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II can use this “reward system” to them after they testified against the neophyte LP senator during the House hearing.
However, Aguirre immediately clarified that he has no knowledge of the pending application for pardon of the said inmates-now whistle blowers, noting that it was never brought to his attention. When he asked if he will pursue those applications to President Rodrigo Duterte, he said he will first study about them, but cannot promise anything yet.
Back in January 2015, then-DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed that she submitted a list of names of Bilibid inmates to then-President Noynoy Aquino for executive clemency. This served as a response to the request of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to grant clemency to sick, old, and abandoned prisoners, in line with the Papal visit.
De Lima did not reveal how many inmates there were in the list, as well as their names, but Aquino vowed to study each case. As Article VII Section 19 of the Constitution clear states, “the President may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.” This has been a regular practice every Christmas season.