A terminally-ill man hoping to taste freedom before he breathes his last on Thursday reiterated his appeal to President Benigno Aquino III to grant him clemency before Easter.
Lenido Lumanog, one of the five convicted killers of Army Lt. Col. Rolando Abadilla, told the INQUIRER while he has not lost hope that he would be pardoned before he succumbs to his illness, “I am afraid that I would die before I am released.”
The 56-year-old Lumanog has been confined at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City after his body showed signs a year ago of rejecting the kidney which was transplanted into his body nearly 10 years ago.
“The doctor says my body can only take so much medication,” he said, adding that chronic rejection has led to other complications, including diabetes.
According to Lumanog, if the government can help other Filipinos in other countries who have been convicted for crimes, why can’t it do the same for innocent Filipinos who are languishing in jail right here in the Philippines?
“The government does not [even] have to pay anything. All we need is a signature and it is free,” he said.
He reiterated that he and the other convicts—Joel de Jesus, Rameses de Jesus, Cesar Fortuna, and Augusto Santos—have been suffering for the last 17 years for a crime they did not commit.
Lumanog recounted that in 2003, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, twice offered him a presidential pardon should he drop the appeal for a review he filed in the Supreme Court but he refused.
“It was admitting I did something I did not do. I looked for a better option because I am innocent. I never thought it would take this long,” he said.
Activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes, who has been campaigning for the release of the so-called “Abadilla 5” since 1999, said that while he was getting tired of waiting, he was praying that Mr. Aquino would finally grant the convicts clemency.
“When I first took up their cause, Len (Lumanog) was still healthy. He got sick because of the conditions in prison. The problem with our penitentiary is [that the prisoners’] health is always at risk. Even if they are guilty, their health should be preserved. They still deserve humane treatment,” he told the Inquirer.
According to Reyes, Lumanog has been taking medication for chronic rejection at “mega levels.” “There is no other solution but another transplant but there is no donor,” he said.
Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta, meanwhile, asked the President to pardon Lumanog for humanitarian considerations.
“Pity and mercy should be granted to those detained or convicted who are dying and terminally ill,” she said.
The Supreme Court affirmed in February 2011 the Court of Appeals’ decision upholding the five men’s conviction by a lower court. This was in spite of allegations of torture by the accused and the communist hit squad Alex Boncayao Brigade’s admission that it was behind Abadilla’s killing in 1996.
While the Department of Justice has pushed for the grant of an executive clemency to the convicts based on a recommendation made by the Board of Pardons and Parole, the President has yet to act on the matter.