APRIL 6, 2007 (BULLETIN) By GENALYN D. KABILING - President Arroyo has granted executive clemency to 38 inmates at the National Penitentiary on humanitarian grounds.

In observance of the Holy Week, the President issued conditional pardon to 28 prisoners and commuted the prison sentences of 10 others.

The orders were transmitted to the Department of Justice, Bureau of Corrections and the Board of Pardons and Parole for immediate implementation.

Based on the rules of the justice department, conditional pardon refers to the exemption of an individual, within certain limits or conditions, from the punishment which the law metes out for his offense resulting in the partial extinction of criminal liability.

Commutation of sentence, on the other hand, refers to the reduction of the duration of a prison sentence of a prisoner.

Granted conditional pardon last April 3 were Godofredo Agsoy, Alfredo Alegado, Zenaida Alvarez, Antonio Buyok, Epefanio Contredas, Feliciano DagaAng Sr., Felix Davalos, Constancio dela Peña, Esteban delos Santos, Roberto Eroy, Jesus Lumdang, Moises Manrique, Moises Moca, Rodolfo Pante, Jose Saravia, Deogracias Te-in, Apolinar Veloso, and Fausto Villamor.

Joselito Apelado, Lucy Bagaman, Epifanio Cajucon, Oliver Capule, Jose Richard Jaca, Renario Manlapaz, Alex Garcia, William Quilang, Antonio Salvallon, and Erlinda Suico.

Granted commutation of sentence last March 30 were Melanio Corpuz Jr., Joey de Leon, Rico del Rosario, Dario Quino, Mariano Ramos, Rumerico Ramos, Jesus Sotelo, Rene Sombilon, Jose Tabalesma, and Romeo Tuson.

In April last year, the President commuted the death sentences of over a thousand convicts to life imprisonment. Two months later, she signed a law abolishing the death penalty in the country, eliciting praises from the Vatican and other pro-life advocates.

President, Cabinet hold Holy Week retreat in Baguio By DAVID CAGAHASTIAN & DEXTER A. SEE

BAGUIO CITY —President Arroyo and members of her Cabinet held a retreat yesterday at the Presidential Mansion here in commemoration of the Holy Week.

She vowed to promote national unity ahead of the May 14 elections.

Mrs. Arroyo also celebrated her 60th birthday yesterday, Maundy Thursday, but she chose to forego a birthday party which she traditionally hosts in her hometown of Lubao, Pampanga, in deference to the Holy Week.

Instead, Mrs. Arroyo, the First Family and some members of her Cabinet held a retreat which also served as a respite from the heavy load of work and politics accompanying an election period in the country.

Mrs. Arroyo said in an interview after the retreat that she and her Cabinet prayed for "peace, unity and prosperity" for the country.

"We prayed over her, and we prayed for ourselves, for good health and longevity. We also discussed stress management by applying the values contained in the gospel. Of course we prayed for peace and unity in our country," Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde said in a separate interview.

Other officials who attended the retreat included Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes, Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, House Speaker Jose De Venecia and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.

Mrs. Arroyo called on every Filipino citizen to sacrifice as their own contribution to sustain the country’s momentum in economic growth.

In her Lenten message, the President also rallied all public officials, both in the administration and opposition, to always practice responsible and dedicated public service to their respective constituents.

She pointed out that there can be no greater thing ins this world that could surpass what Jesus Christ did, to sacrifice his life to save the people from their sins, thus, every Filipino must strive to live like Christ to instill a morally upright, God-fearing and peace-loving citizenry that could spell the difference in the country’s bid to be an economic tiger in the future.

Mrs. Arroyo emphasized that every Filipino must carry his own cross to help save the country from poverty and violence and remove hatred from himself to prevent disunity and misunderstanding which is the root cause of all the political intramurals that is preventing the country from moving towards economic prosperity.

"Tayo man ay dapat ding maghandog ng sarili nating sakripisyo para sa kabutihan ng ating sambayanan at bansa, at laging magsikap na maging mapagbigay sa paglilingkod sa mga mamamayan," Mrs. Arroyo said.

"Alisin natin ang galit sa ating mga puso upang wakasan na ang hindi pagkakasundo at hidwaan; maliwanagan ang isipan upang matanto ang katotohanan mula sa mga bulaang pangako."

For her birthday, Mrs. Arroyo also wished for national unity in the face of the coming elections that could possibly be divisive.

Bunye said the retreat focused on "acceptance of His will" as demonstrated by Mary, the apostles and Jesus himself with His sacrifice on the cross.

Retreat master Msgr. Jerry Tapiador also reiterated the Christian teachings on leadership which call on leaders to act as servants of the people instead of lording over them. To demonstrate this precept, the retreat master reenacted Jesus’ washing of the feet of His apostles who were portrayed by Cabinet secretaries.

After a healing Mass which capped the retreat, Mrs. Arroyo took a quick stroll around the Presidential Mansion’s driveway where dozens of tourists were waiting to greet her on her birthday. Tourists sang a birthday song for Mrs. Arroyo and took turns posing with her for picture-taking.

First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo said he gave Mrs. Arroyo the usual birthday gifts like candies and flowers, but he refused to say what other gifts he gave her.

President Arroyo and the members of her Cabinet are in this mountain resort city for their annual spiritual retreat in observance of the Lenten break. The spiritual retreat aims to assess the performance of the different Cabinet officials in the implementation of the administration’s anti-poverty and other flagship programs as well as to come up with more proactive and people-oriented projects and programs to uplift the living condition of majority of the Filipinos in the rural communities.

The Chief Executive challenged the 88 million Filipinos to maximize their faith in the Lord to strengthen their unity and love of others for their own good.

Some members of Team Unity, including Reps. Prospero Pichay and Juan Miguel Zubiri, former Sen. Vicente Sotto III, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram, and actor-director Cesar Montano joined the retreat. They refused to talk about politics in adherence to an appeal by the Church for politicians to refrain from politicking from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday this Holy Week.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is greeted by Msgr. Jerry Tapiador on her 60th birth anniversary after a healing mass at the Presidential Mansion House in Baguio City. With the President is First Gentleman Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved