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Hypocrites, Gonzalez calls Hultmans

By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:48:00 10/10/2008

Filed Under: Crime, Law & Justice,Prison

MANILA, Philippines?Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez on Thursday said Vivian and Anders Hultman were ?hypocrites,? and that the couple knew as far back as 1999 that their daughter?s murderer would someday be paroled or pardoned and released from jail.

Gonzalez was reacting to the Sweden-based Hultmans? expressions of shock and anger after Claudio Teehankee Jr., the convicted murderer of their daughter Maureen, was granted executive clemency by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo without their knowledge.

?I don?t think we have to fly to Sweden just to notify them,? the justice secretary told reporters. ?And they know, based on this document, that this was going to happen. They?re hypocrites.?

The document, signed on Nov. 12, 1999, by the Hultmans and Teehankee, indicates a settlement of the convict?s P6-million civil liability for Maureen?s murder.

Copies of the document were distributed on Thursday to reporters in Malacaang.

Vivian admitted signing the document, but said the family did not necessarily agree to the eventual release of Maureen?s murderer.

But Gonzalez argued, informing a victim?s family about an impending pardon was ?not a law? and ?just [a] guideline? of the Board of Pardons and Parole.

He said allowing a victim?s family to block a presidential pardon by interposing their objection would ?be contradicting the power of the President under the Constitution? to pardon prisoners whose cases had received final judgment.

?No political advantage?

?All the processes have been fulfilled, contrary to the claim of the Hultmans,? Gonzalez went on.

He said Ms Arroyo?s decision to grant clemency to Teehankee?son and namesake of the late Chief Justice and elder brother of Ambassador Manuel Teehankee, the Philippine representative to the World Trade Organization in Geneva?was not politically motivated.

?There is no political advantage that the President stands to gain. What political clout does Teehankee have?? he said.

As far as Gonzalez was concerned, Teehankee could stay anywhere he wanted after he was officially released from custody on Oct. 3.

The justice secretary found nothing wrong in Teehankee?s midnight release, or that he stayed at the ?living-out quarters? of another high-profile inmate, convicted child rapist Romeo Jalosjos.

He said there was no rule against releasing pardoned prisoners at night or during weekends.

Gonzalez also said Teehankee could go anywhere he wanted, even abroad, because his pardon did not prohibit travel overseas.

Technically speaking

Malacaang continued to try to take the heat off Ms Arroyo, with Press Secretary Jesus Dureza saying that Teehankee did not ?technically? receive executive clemency but instead served his full prison term.

?The President technically did not pardon Teehankee under the laws,? Dureza said in Filipino in an interview with RMN radio. ?His service of sentence, according to the computation, had been fully served out.?

He said Ms Arroyo?s role was limited to commuting Teehankee?s sentence, supposedly because the convict?s prison service, accompanied by good conduct time allowance, had qualified him for the privilege.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita on Wednesday said Teehankee had served a total of 21 years, three months, and five days in prison by virtue of his supposed good behavior behind bars.

But his actual stay was only 17 years, two months, and nine days.

?Rich vs rich?

Dureza took a swipe at critics of Ms Arroyo?s decision, suggesting that the issue was getting more public attention because it pitted ?the rich versus the rich? in Teehankee and the Hultmans.

?What others seem to want is for someone to rot in jail even if he?s already entitled to go home because he has paid for his crimes to society by serving his sentence,? he said.

?And then if you are rich and you clashed with the rich as well, you?re not supposed to be accorded the same privilege given to everybody else.?

Vivian Hultman had earlier said the grant of clemency to Teehankee, of which her family was unaware, made her feel ?embarrassed to be a Filipino.?

Ermita?s response: ?I don?t see whether the government still has to do anything to reach out to them? I don?t think that is necessary.?

Resolutions only

Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio, the lead prosecutor who sent Teehankee to jail, had earlier said he would back any move by Congress to pass a law that would allow it to review the President?s use of her executive clemency powers.

But according to Quezon City Rep. Mat Defensor, Congress cannot clip the President?s power to grant executive clemency, but can pass resolutions expressing its sentiment on the use of that power.

Defensor, who chairs the House committee on justice, pointed out that under the Constitution, the President had the sole prerogative to release convicts.

But he said people unhappy with her choices were always free to criticize her.

?We just have to live with the President?s decision although we can be very, very critical about it. But unless the Constitution is amended, her powers are almost limitless... I think criticism will always come about, but it?s good to listen to everybody,? Defensor said in an ambush interview at the Serye restaurant. With reports from Christian V. Esguerra and Leila B. Salaverria

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