Apr 09, 2022

Sierra Madre, 'The Forest,' amnesty and pardon

Sierra Madre, 'The Forest,' Amnesty and Pardon

By: Saul Hofileña Jr.


IMMEDIATELY after taking the 1985 bar examinations, I hied up to the mountains of the Sierra Madre to wait out the bar examination results. I lived alone in a farm, used the squawking of hornbills to determine the time of day and hiked in the mountains that served as sanctuaries for revolutionaries and resistance fighters, hiding places for assorted heroes and scoundrels.

As twilight fell, I would return to my house and read by lamplight up to the wee hours. One of the books that arrested my interest was The Forest by William J. Pomeroy because it describes the place where I had built my home. In fact, Pomeroy had marked the general vicinity with an X.

"Whoever enter forest leave behind the open world." — warned Pomeroy, an American G.I. who took part in the Leyte landing. He later studied at the University of the Philippines under the G.I. bill and married Celia Mariano, another UP student.

Together with his wife, Pomeroy joined the Hukbalahap in its struggle for social liberation. They were captured in 1952 and were sent to Muntinlupa. Pomeroy described Muntinlupa as the apex and nerve center of the Philippine penal system. He said that the political prisoners from the Hukbalahap movement were herded to Muntinlupa from 1950 onwards and were separated from the other prisoners for fear that they would indoctrinate the rest of the inmates to their cause.

They were charged in the Court of First Instance of Manila with the complex crime of rebellion with murder. They then pleaded guilty and were sentenced to reclusion perpetua which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years imprisonment. After sentencing, they later asked for writs of habeas corpus alleging that in the case involving the writer Amado Hernandez, it was held that acts of violence committed in pursuance of rebellion did not give rise to a complex crime, but only to simple rebellion punishable by prision mayor. Since they had pleaded guilty, they were entitled to a sentence of prision mayor only, the minimum of which carries a penalty of six years and one day. Because they had already served the minimum of prision mayor, after deduction for good conduct provided by law, they were entitled to be released.

The Court of First Instance of Rizal ordered their release which was vetoed by the Supreme Court. However, they were able to secure a pardon from President Carlos P. Garcia before the latter stepped down from office. That brings me now to the topic of pardon and amnesty.

The difference between pardon and amnesty is that pardon is granted to one after conviction; while amnesty is granted to classes of persons or communities who may be guilty of political offenses, generally before or after the institution of the criminal prosecution and sometimes after conviction. Pardon is prospective and relieves the offender of the consequences of a crime or offense of which he has been convicted; it abolishes or forgives the punishment. It does not, however, restore the right to hold public office, or the right to vote, unless such rights are expressly restored by the terms of the pardon and does not exempt the offender from payment of any imposed civil liability. Amnesty looks backward and abolishes the offense itself, and therefore, one who avails of amnesty is released and stands before the law precisely as though he had committed no crime or offense.

It is worth mentioning that before the arrest of Pomeroy and his wife, then President Elpidio Quirino on June 21, 1948, signed Proclamation 76 granting amnesty under certain conditions to members of the Hukbalahap. One of the conditions was that the Huks, as members of the movement were called, must surrender within 20 days to be entitled to the amnesty. In a decided case, the Supreme Court declared that the purpose of the amnesty was to secure a pledge of loyalty and obedience to the duly constituted authority and encourage those who have surrendered to resume their lawful lives.

After being incarcerated for a decade and then pardoned, the militant couple William and Celia Pomeroy were eventually released. They then decided to spend the rest of their lives in Great Britain since Celia was barred from entering the United States. They lived in a small flat in London, slightly bigger than their makeshift hut in their hideaway in a place marked X in the Sierra Madre mountains. William Pomeroy, writer and revolutionary, died in January 2009, followed by his wife, Celia Mariano Pomeroy, on Aug. 22, 2009.

As for the Ateneo Class of 1985 who took the bar? We dominated the top 10 and became lawyers — I wouldn't dare name its members lest I be accused of boastful talk.

Read: Group files motion for reconsideration vs. SC ruling on anti-terror law

(The Manila Times, April 9, 2022)