May Erap’s pardon be revoked by GMA?

MANILA, Philippines — Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera was reported by media to have said that the “government may revoke its grant of pardon to former President Joseph Estrada if he makes good his threat to resist ‘till death’ the forfeiture of his assets worth P545 million,” on the ground that “the forfeiture was a condition for his pardon.”

Pardon not conditional. Relevantly, the short presidential order granting “executive clemency” merely said “The forfeitures imposed by the Sandiganbayan remain in force and in full, including all writs and processes issued by the Sandiganbayan in pursuance thereof, except for bank accounts he owned before his tenure as president.”

I cannot see how this awkward sentence can be interpreted as a condition. It merely states that the pardon did not encompass the monetary prescriptions of the anti-graft court. A condition imposes a burden; hence, it must be phrased clearly so the “pardonee” would understand its import.

Of course, the Sandiganbayan may enforce, through its usual writs and processes, the “forfeitures” it ordered in its now final and executory judgment. But the non-satisfaction of the writs will not justify the pardon’s revocation.

The remedy to nullify the pardon is a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court, showing that President Macapagal-Arroyo gravely abused her discretion in extending clemency to Erap. This is rather difficult to do. Most constitutionalists grant the President immense leeway in issuing pardons. But enterprising lawyers can always try their luck in our activist Court. Pursuant to the Rules of Court, this petition may be filed within 60 days from “notice” of the presidential clemency.

GMA not yet immune from impeachment. With the dismissal for “lack of substance” of the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Roel Pulido, is GMA now immune from impeachment for one year? Under the Constitution, “(n)o impeachment proceeding shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.”

“Francisco vs House of Representatives” (Nov. 10, 2003) ruled that an impeachment proceeding is deemed to have been initiated on the day it is referred to the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives. From that day, the one-year ban on new impeachment complaints shall be reckoned. However, there are some novel questions that still need to be ruled upon by the Supreme Court before GMA can be said to be totally inoculated.

First, was the referral to the Committee on Justice made by the Deputy Speaker, instead of the Speaker as provided by the House Rules, valid? If not, then the one-year ban has not begun. Second, was the precipitate dismissal of the supplemental complaint filed by lawyer Adel Tamano tenable? Wasn’t the Tamano pleading intended to strengthen the ?weak? Pulido complaint and to prevent a mockery of the one-year ban? Third, was the Committee’s refusal to include GMA in the impeachment complaint filed against resigned Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos correct? A negative answer to any of these questions may reopen the impeachment proceeding against GMA.

Dislodging a Comelec commissioner. The “bulaga” appointment of former Judge Moslemen T. Macarambon as a member of the Commission on Elections has generated a tidal wave of protests. Several non-government organizations have attacked his unimpressive credentials and the opaqueness that shrouded his appointment.

Critics have raked up two instances, in 1999 and in 2005, in which the Supreme Court yanked out cases from his sala “to avoid a miscarriage of justice.” In “TransAsia Shipping vs Macarambon,” (Nov. 24, 1999), the son of Macarambon sued TransAsia in his father’s sala in Lanao del Sur, for its alleged failure to accommodate the judge in the ambassador suite of the petitioner’s vessel.

Narrated the Supreme Court, “Brandishing his calling card to petitioner’s employee, Macarambon said: ‘You know I am a judge. You should have accommodated me first.’” Despite a Resolution of the high court moving the case to the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro, Macarambon still decided it. So the Supreme Court “set aside” his decision and transferred the records to Cagayan de Oro.

Macarambon is lucky that TransAsia filed only a “petition for a change of venue,” not an administrative charge for his violation of judicial ethics. Otherwise, he could have been held administratively liable and penalized accordingly. In any event, given the judge’s murky track record, several electoral watchdogs have asked whether he can still be removed from office, even if he has already taken his oath and began to discharge his duties.

The answer is yes, if his ad interim appointment is either disapproved or bypassed by the Commission on Appointments and the President does not extend him a new appointment. But if GMA reappoints him despite the disapproval or bypass, then he will retain his job.

Diabetes awareness. Last Nov. 14, the United Nations observed World Diabetes Day. Back in 1983, I was diagnosed to have mild diabetes. Thanks to proper diet, regular exercise, a little medicine and a lot of prayers, the disease was controlled. In 1993, Dr. Augusto Litonjua, the famous endocrinologist, certified in writing that I was no longer a diabetic. Since then and up to now, I still see him at least once every three months. Even if I no longer take any diabetic medicine, my blood sugar has remained normal. Moral lesson: early detection can lead to full recovery.

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