Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Catholic Church officials yesterday scored the Aquino administration for being too "tightfisted" in granting paroles and clemency to prisoners.
"The appeals are not moving," Puerto Princesa Bishop Pedro Arigo, vice chair of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC), said in an interview.
Arigo cited the case of Abadilla 5 member Lenido Lumanog, who is in critical condition but has yet to be released even after the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) recommended the commutation of his sentence in December last year.
"Do you remember the Abadilla 5? One of them is [in serious condition] right now in the hospital but he can't go home with his family," he said.
Fr. Robert Reyes, who has championed the Abadilla 5's cause, said Lumanog's body was starting to reject the transplanted kidney given to him by his wife Lenny.
"He's been in the hospital for the last three months and his family has racked up hundreds of thousands in hospital bills because he has to stay in the pay ward so that doctors can closely monitor his condition," Reyes said.
He said Lenny had to make a scene at the Department of Justice two months ago so she could see Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to follow up on her husband's case.
"She had to cry out so that the justice secretary could notice her. (De Lima) did follow it up and we were told that (Lumanog's papers) are now at the table of one of the officials in Malacanang (Philippine palace)," Reyes said.
New Bilibid Prison chaplain Monsignor Bobby Olaguer said the slow processing of parole petitions was contributing to the congestion at the national penitentiary.
"From the time of Marcos, we're used to seeing 100 or 300 prisoners being released on the President's birthday or on Independence Day. But now... nothing. Those being released are only those who have already served their sentence," Olaguer said.
"I don't know the reason for this... Maybe (the President) really wants justice to the limit... to the extreme... but that lacks mercy," he added.
Rodolfo Diamante, ECPPC executive secretary, told the news service of the CBCP that there were about 96,000 inmates across the country but "hundreds" have already been recommended clemency by BPP.
"We are hoping that those who are already 70 years old and above be granted executive clemency," Diamante said, noting that the new guidelines for executive clemency implemented by the administration are "very difficult to follow."
"The guidelines he wants are very retributive and past-oriented. I hope the Office of the President will review it again to make it more rehabilitation-driven in granting executive clemency," Diamante said.
In July 2011, Mariano Umbrero, who was the first and only inmate pardoned under the Aquino administration, succumbed to cancer four days before he was granted presidential clemency.
Diamante noted that no other detainee has been granted executive clemency under two years of the Aquino presidency.