MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte may only issue executive clemency after a person has been found guilty, the Department of Justice said Sunday.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra issued the remark after Duterte said he has forgiven Philippine National Police (PNP) Gen. Debold Sinas for holding a mañanita birthday party during Metro Manila's strict lockdown.
"The DOJ/prosecutor has to complete the process of preliminary investigation. Executive clemency may come only after a finding of guilt. If there's no finding of guilt, there's no room for the application of executive clemency," he said.
The President is "very much aware" that a case against Sinas remains pending and is "merely indicating his intent to act with liberality, in consideration of General Sinas’ overall performance as a career police officer," Guevarra said.
"I didn't hear what the President said exactly. I need to know the context, but whatever it was that the President said about his intent to pardon General Sinas, the DOJ will do what it is duty-bound to do, and the president may also do what he is constitutionally authorized to do," he said.
In May, Sinas drew public ire over a mañanita, or pre-dawn birthday serenade, at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City that allegedly violated the 10-people limit on gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Guevarra had confirmed that two separate complaints were filed against Sinas over the incident - the one in Taguig by the police, and another one by the National Bureau of Investigation filed at the DOJ.
Despite that controversy and allegations of abuses when he headed the Central Visayas police, Sinas was chosen by Duterte as PNP chief effecting Nov. 10, replacing Gen. Camilo Cascolan who had reached the mandatory retirement age.
"Akin ’yun, kung may kasalanan siya doon, pardoned siya. Wala akong nakitang kasalanang masama na may mura, implications, masamang malisya, wala. Pumunta na ’yung ibang sundalo, mañanita surprise nga, di naman alam ng pobre," Duterte said Saturday.