MANILA, Philippines?The son of a former Supreme Court Chief Justice, sentenced to life in prison for shooting to death a 16-year-old girl despite her pleas for mercy, has been released from jail after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo granted him executive clemency.
Claudio Teehankee Jr., now 62, stepped out a free man from the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City last weekend after serving 14 years for a triple crime?including the gruesome murder of the girl in 1991 that later prompted some lawmakers to demand the restoration of the death penalty.
He was released quietly and literally in the dead of night?before midnight on Friday.
Teehankee is the son of the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, who opposed Ferdinand Marcos? martial law and, in 1986, swore in Corazon Aquino as president of the country?s restored democracy after Marcos was ousted in the People Power Revolution.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said the President granted Teehankee executive clemency in late September, which paved the way for his release.
?Yes, he is released,? Gonzalez said. ?He is considered to have already served his sentence.?
Gonzalez said the executive clemency commuted Teehankee?s sentence, resulting in his release following two reviews by the Board of Pardons and Parole.
?This was reviewed and re-reviewed by the Board of Pardons and Parole, that is as to the time frame,? Gonzalez said in a telephone interview.
?The executive clemency, we cannot question that. That?s a constitutional power vested on the President,? he added.
Teehankee ended up a convicted murderer for the 1991 death of 16-year-old Maureen Hultman. He was also convicted of the shooting death of Hultman?s companion, Roland John Chapman, 21, and the almost fatal shooting of another companion, Jussi Olavi Leino, 24.
The triple shooting occurred in the early morning of July 13, 1991, in Dasmarińas Village in Makati City, where the Hultmans lived.
Court records showed Hultman was returning home from a party with her two companions when Teehankee confronted them on Campanilla Street.
When Chapman asked Teehankee why he was bothering them, the latter pushed him, drew out his gun, and shot Chapman in cold blood, according to the records.
?Why did you shoot me?? the staggering Chapman said before crumpling to the ground.
Then, according to the records, Teehankee ordered the now hysterical Hultman and Leino to sit together on the sidewalk. ?While seated, unarmed and begging for mercy, the two were gunned down by [Teehankee].?
Teehankee drove away in a car after the shooting.
Leino was one of three witnesses who later identified Teehankee as the gunman.
P15 million in damages
Besides the life imprisonment he drew for the Hultman murder and the two shorter prison sentences he got for the death of Hultman?s companions, Teehankee was ordered by the court to pay damages amounting to about P15 million.
?I would assume that he already paid the civil liabilities,? Gonzalez said.
NBP Supt. Ramon Reyes said in a phone interview that Teehankee was freed based on what is referred to as good conduct time allowance, or GCTA.
?The release of Mr. Teehankee underwent a rigorous review and it was signed by the Secretary of Justice, Raul Gonzalez,? Reyes said.
Every prisoner is qualified to benefit from the GCTA, Reyes said.
Under the GCTA, a prisoner, based on good behavior, may avail of a deduction of five days each month from his term, for the first two years of imprisonment.
From the third to the fifth year of imprisonment, eight days are allowed to be deducted each month; from the sixth to the 10th year, 10 days of deduction; and from the 11th year onward, 15 days of deduction.
Asked why Teehankee was released before midnight of Friday, Reyes said he had no idea why the release took place very late in the night but that he was certain Teehankee should have been released at an earlier date.
?What I know is that based on his records, his sentence has been served,? Reyes said in Filipino. ?He should have been released earlier, as early as September.?
Reyes recalled that the original date of recommendation for Teehankee?s release was Sept. 28, 2008.
NBP Executive Director Bartolome Bustamante also confirmed Teehankee?s release.
He is coming back
Bustamante said Teehankee had to call home to tell his relatives about his release.
?He had no one to fetch him,? Bustamante said. ?He was allowed to call home because he was about to be released. After that call he made on the landline, his relatives arrived.?
Bustamante said he was around when Teehankee was released and he said that he remembered telling him in Filipino: ?You?re a free man, you ought to learn your lesson.?
He said Teehankee simply answered: ?Thank you, Sir.?
He said Teehankee promised to return to the NBP.
Bustamante quoted Teehankee as saying: ?I will be missing my group and I would like to be of help in the rehabilitation of the prisoners in my own little way and using my connections. I will be back to help.?
A few days before his release, Teehankee donated high breed seeds to the Office of the NBP Superintendent?for prisoners to plant in the allotted and designated lots in the prison compound.
Teehankee even mentioned the date when he would come back, but no longer as a prisoner.
?He said he would return during the National Corrections Consciousness Week on Nov. 3-10 to help and visit his former comrades,? Bustamante said.