RELEASE FROM IMPRISONMENT: HOW IT IS OBTAINED
Note: A day in prison is a shattering experience. It is not only a commencement of a humiliating immersion where one’s integrity lay in tatters starting from the day of arrest but admission in the penitentiary is the penultimate test humanity must endure. It is the beginning of self destruction and initiation to lamentation. It is the culmination of real pain, resolve and penance. And the only sacred thought that maintains sanity and restores faith is the day when an inmate is shown the way to freedom.
There is nothing mysterious and there is even nothing that betrays irregularity when it comes to releasing a prisoner. There are several angles one must observe. The following are considerations based on law.
- Completion of sentence.
- Executive Clemency
- Court Order
- Prescription of penalty
Completion of Sentence. By completion of sentence is meant, reaching that period when penalty is served. Hence, when a person is sentenced to 5 years and has served the time, then prison administration must, by operation of law, prepare the discharge paper and provide the prisoner the gratuities necessary, like fare, for his eventual reintegration into the mainstream of the free society.
Normally, a judicial conviction seldom issues a definite sentence. The penalty matrix in the Revised Penal Code requires the court to hand down a penalty that carries a minimum and a maximum period. Example, penalty for Homicide is placed at 6 years minimum up to 12 years maximum. This should be understood that upon completion of six years, the person is eligible for parole consideration. Those released on parole are required to report to their respective parole officers in their area until such time that they fulfil the requirements of parole supervision up to the period of their maximum sentence or upon satisfaction of supervision may be released earlier, depending on the recommendation of the parole officer.
Those sentenced to Life Imprisonment or Reclusion Perpetua need not curse the heavens or feel disheartened. They would be able to see the light freedom, longer however relatively speaking, but would eventually be freed. There are stipulated period to file a Petition for Executive Clemency. This will be discussed later. With the application of a recent law on the new Good Conduct Time Allowance (RA 10592), the period is reduced considerably for those seeking pardon through executive clemency. Under this recent correctional legislation, entitlement is not disturbed even for prisoners under appeal.
Executive Clemency. A petition for executive clemency can be filed by a prisoner even at the start of his penalty. No lawyer is required to fulfil this but it is one inherent right of a prisoner to pursue personally. The Petition may be prepared through a simple letter addressed either to the President or to the Secretary of Justice or to the Chairman of the Board of Pardons and Parole. Once received, the letter is reviewed and assessed accordingly. There are several effects once Executive Clemency is granted. Anyone of the following may be granted:
- Absolute Pardon. Under this consideration, an offender may immediately be released from confinement upon issuance of this Presidential act regardless of how short or long his penalty is. The case of former President Joseph Estrada may be referred to. Accordingly, right after Estrada’s conviction was handed down by Sandiganbayan for the offense of Plunder (after 6 years of judicial determination), then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo granted absolute pardon with stipulated conditions to Estrada. On the day the grant was issued, without even being admitted to the National penitentiary for record purposes, Estrada gained his freedom.
- Conditional Pardon. Conditional Pardon is usually granted as a diplomatic act for foreigners serving time for violating a crime in the country. The specific condition given is as soon as the release papers issued, the grantee must leave the country on the first plane out. There are also grants of conditional pardon issued by the Chief Executive, on its own or through the recommendation of the Department of Justice/ Board of Pardons and Parole. Pardon is granted provided that the grantee must sign his willingness to be guided to observe several conditions. One such condition includes that the grantee should not go to places of ill repute. Pardon is an act of grace which exempts individual on whom it is bestowed from punishment which the law inflicts for a crime he has committed.
- Amnesty. It is an act of grace concurred in by the Legislature, usually extended to classes of persons who committed political offences which puts into oblivion the offense itself before trial. Senator Gregorio Honasan during then President Fidel Ramos obtained amnesty after Honasan was charged for mutiny. The same is true with then Lieutenant and now Senator Antonio Trillanes.
- Parole and Probation. Parole is the conditional release of a person convicted of a crime prior to the expiration of that person’s term of imprisonment subject to both the supervision of Probation and Parole Administration during the remainder of the term and a resumption of the imprisonment upon violation of the conditions imposed.
In probation, a convict is released from confinement but is still under court supervision; a testing or a trial period. Probation can be given in lieu of a prison term or can suspend a prison sentence if the convict has consistently demonstrated good behaviour.
Court Order. The Court (whether the Supreme Court, Appellate Courts, Trial courts) may issue an order directing prisons to release a person in their custody provided that the person is no legal impediment like another conviction for which the person is also required to judicially serve time for. The usual route to obtain release through court order is through proper and timely appeal on meritorious cases or through the application of the requesting party for the issuance of a write of habeas corpus (where prison administration is required to show proof/ cause that the person in their custody have legal basis to stay and is serving time pursuant to a judicial decree, or have basis from a competent authority to detain said person.) Failing to satisfy the court’s requirements, the applicant is granted relief or in the case of a detained person, his liberty.
Prescription of Penalty. This is obtained where an escapee has spent period of time at large, and has not been charged of any violation during said period and after a specific time would reappear before his custodian to seek his formal release or has been recaptured after a specific time. Inability however of prison administration to file a timely case of Evasion of Service of Sentence to an escaped inmate would render such prescriptive period moot and academic against the inmate himself.