ART VII The Executive Branch Section 19. Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the President may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.I think the question should be settled once and for all by the Supreme Court because of the following very possible scenario.
Suppose President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is impeached by the House and tried in the Senate in 2007, 2008, 2009 or 2010. Suppose further that, upon sensing that she is about to be convicted in the Senate Impeachment Court, and before a guilty verdict can be rendered, she voluntarily RESIGNS, but before she can flee to Hawaii or Shanghai, she is charged, arrested and convicted for plunder or some other capital crime and sentenced to reclusion perpetua, (exactly what happened to Erap.)
Now then, if the pardon for Erap by GMA in 2007 is deemed to be Constitutional, by parity of reasoning, the convicted Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would also be eligible for pardon, thus making a mockery of the clear intention of the Constitution to exclude cases of impeachment from the powers of the Presidency "to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons and remit fines and forfeitures."
In other words, if Erap's pardon is considered Constitutional, it would seem to me that we are allowing resignation to be a loophole by which an impeached Constitutional officer could defeat the Constitution and preserve his or her eligibility for reprieve, commutation of sentence and pardon in the subsequent criminal cases that could be brought against such officer after removal from office. It is a loophole that would certainly be resorted to once the impeached officer is relatively certain of conviction and removal from office anyway.
This seems to me to be absolutely unacceptable and a mockery of the Law.
THE FINE POINTS:
Was Erap a case of impeachment?
Indubitably so, since the House of Representatives transmitted a case of impeachment against him in November, 2000 and his trial at a properly constituted Senate Impeachment Court began in December, 2000. Art. VII Sec. 19 explicitly states, "Except in cases of impeachment..."
Is there an ambiguity in the provision?
Yes there is, because the provision also explicitly states, that the various forms of executive clemency may only be granted "after conviction by final judgment."
In Erap's case, the events of Edsa Dos intervened, and though he was virtually certain of acquittal at the Senate Impeachment Trial after the Craven Eleven tipped their hand and showed Erap had the numbers for acquittal, the Supreme Court Chief Justice swore in the Vice President after she claimed the President was permanently incapacitated on 20 January 2001, which was later "construed" by the Supreme Court to be a valid resignation under the Constitution, in the historic case of Estrada v. Arroyo (March, 2001).
Thus it is now argued that there was a case of impeachment but no conviction by final judgment in that case. The conviction by final judgment now applicable to the pardon is that of the Sandiganbayan for plunder last September 12, 2007, six and half years after Erap's constructed resignation.
It would seem inconceivable to me that the framers of the Constitution intended for such a loophole to exist in cases of impeachment. The reason cases of impeachment are exempted from executive clemency would seem to be the serious nature of the high crimes and misdemeanors that qualify for impeachment of Constitutional officers. If they intended for resignation to be a means of preserving the possibility of pardon, they should have stated so in the Constitutional provision, explicitly.
The Supreme Court must settle this issue for all future cases of impeachment!