EDITORIAL - Special convicts
() - September 9, 2009 - 12:00am

Malacañang has been trying to distance itself from the impending transfer to Spain of one of the men convicted of raping and then murdering two sisters in Cebu. Palace officials said the transfer of Francisco Larrañaga, one of the murderers of Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong, is made possible under a treaty between the two countries, forged by the executive and ratified by the Senate. Yesterday Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who chairs the chamber’s committee on foreign relations, said the transfer should have been preceded by a public hearing. She also said that under the treaty, the Philippines could turn down a request for certain convicts.

All prisoners deserve humane treatment. For good behavior, and for humanitarian or health reasons, they can ask for better treatment from the state or clemency from the chief executive. Inmates who have admitted their guilt, shown remorse and appear to be fully rehabilitated and ready to rejoin the social mainstream are entitled to a shortened sentence or pardon. Except in cases where the final sentence bars pardon or parole, an inmate can avail himself of an early release.

Several convicts who have enjoyed pardon, parole or acts of leniency from the state in recent years, however, give the impression that in the corrections system, decisions of the Arroyo administration are governed by more than humanitarian considerations. Former congressmen Romeo Jalosjos of Zamboanga del Norte and Jose Villarosa of Mindoro are known supporters of President Arroyo who have regained their freedom in recent years, indicating that even the penal system is now used for patronage or other political purposes. Deposed President Joseph Estrada did not spend a single day behind bars after his conviction. The brother of Claudio Teehankee, namesake of his father the former chief justice, is a   justice under-secretary and currently a candidate for a seat in the Supreme Court.

As former President Corazon Aquino battled cancer, all the soldiers convicted of murdering her husband were freed, despite opposition from her family. The soldiers never admitted their guilt, sticking to the line of the Marcos regime that Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated by Rolando Galman.

Larrañaga happens to belong to Cebu’s influential Osmeña clan. The province went for candidate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004. The convict is not asking for pardon, but merely better detention facilities in his other country, Spain. Is he, by coincidence, the first beneficiary of a bilateral treaty, or was a treaty tailor-made for him?

BENIGNO AQUINO JR. CEBU CLAUDIO TEEHANKEE DEPOSED PRESIDENT JOSEPH ESTRADA FRANCISCO LARRA GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO MARIJOY AND JACQUELINE CHIONG MIRIAM DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO NORTE AND JOSE VILLAROSA OF MINDORO PRESIDENT ARROYO PRESIDENT CORAZON AQUINO
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