MANILA - Freedom will come a little later for 127 elderly and sick prisoners after President Rodrigo Duterte failed to pardon them over the holidays because of his hectic schedule, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Tuesday.
"Sobrang busy ni Presidente nitong bago mag-Bagong Taon saka Pasko. Siya mismo ang nag-order n'yan (presidential pardon) e," Aguirre told radio DZMM.
"Iyan mismo ay sinabi sa amin harap-harap verbally kaya I'm sure natabunan lang iyan ng napakaraming trabaho ni Presidente."
(The President was very busy before the New Year and during Christmas. He himself ordered the granting of presidential pardon. He said that personally to us so I'm sure it was just bumped off by the many tasks of the President.)
The Justice department's Board of Pardons and Parole endorsed 127 frail prisoners aged over 80 for the presidential pardon.
Board administrator Manuel Co expressed confidence that the President will soon pardon the elderly inmates.
"May instruction naman ang ating Pangulo, sa tingin ko, talagang palalayain naman talaga niya," he said in a separate DZMM interview. (There is an instruction from the President. I think he will really release them.)
Co and Aguirre both promised to follow up the matter with the Office of the President.
Duterte announced in November that he is set to grant executive clemency to inmates aged at least 80 who have served at least 40 years of prison time.
"Lahat ng matatanda saka may sakit, iyung may rayuma na, hindi na makatakbo, 80 years old above -- kung gusto nila, kung may mauwian pa sila, I will grant them pardon also so that they could return home," he told reporters.
"Iyung nakatira diyan nang 40 years or more, they deserve to be out," he added.
Duterte's announcement came after he granted absolute pardon to actor Robin Padilla, restoring the latter's civil and political rights, which may enable him to get a US visa so he can be with his wife and newborn child.