MANILA - Twenty-seven prisoners were supposed to be given a new lease in life after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered their release. One prisoner, however, died before he could get his sentence commuted.
Out of the 127 inmates recommended for release, the President chose 27 to compose the first batch of release: 4 for conditional pardon and 23 for commutation of sentence.
Rogelio Malagutnot, one of the 27 inmates granted commutation of sentence last February 22, passed away just two days prior to the grant, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said.
"The first batch... they should have been released as early as last year as we have submitted and recommended their release as early as November last year. But because of the bureaucratic red tapes and of course the Office of the President has been full and handling many problems of the state kaya po na-delay ito nang kaunti," he said.
He added: "The government is keen on granting pardon to old and frail inmates in a bid to decongest the high volume of persons deprived of liberty in prisons, and as a recognition that reformation is an option."
In his speech, Aguirre said the government recognizes that these inmates "committed mistakes and have been punished for it."
"And yet we still chose to forgive them because they too have a right to live," he added.
Aguirre said the 26 inmates who will be receiving their certificates of condition of pardon and commutation of sentence have gone through NBP's rehabilitation programs and are now given their second chance to liberty and life.
"We are confident that these inmates will soon be reintegrated into the loving arms of family and friends," he said.
"Today we are witnessing justice at work. Today we see that reformation is an option."
During the ceremony at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City on Tuesday morning, Aguirre urged the inmates to enjoy, cherish and value their freedom.
"I also challenge you to better yourselves so that you become productive members of the society which welcomed you," he said.
Aguirre also said that as of this month, more inmates have applied for executive clemency and are still being considered by the Office of the President.
"Mahirap ang buhay sa loob. Wag na kayong bumalik. Sa inyong pag-alis, hindi na kayo welcome dito. Magsilbi kayong pagasa para sa iba pa," he said.