Justice Minister and Vice President Raynold Oilouch and Attorney General (AG) Ernestine Rengiil have unitedly asserted the government’s zero tolerance stance against illegal drugs this time but President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. is seen to have shown otherwise when he granted full pardon to a drug convict on October 19.

Minister Oilouch and Attorney General Rengiil had both recommended to deny drug convict Kalingo Kangich’s petition for Executive Clemency based on the government’s zero tolerance approach against illegal drugs. Remengesau, however, reportedly granted Kangich’s petition, citing that “strong recommendations” by the Palau National Parole Board and Peleliu State Governor Temmy Shmull had made him grant the pardon.

Kangich previously pled guilty to one count of possession of more than one gram of methamphetamine in a plea agreement dated October 20, 2014.

“While I have ultimately decided to grant your application in full, please note that it was on the bases of two strong recommendations by the Palau National Parole Board and the Governor of Peleliu. As they note, you are a young man who has actively supported the youth program,” Remengesau stated in his letter granting full pardon to Kangich.

Remengesau also stated that Kangich pleading guilty to the drug charges shows that the petitioner understands and accepts responsibility for his actions.

“The Parole Board believes that you show complete remorse for your criminal behavior. Furthermore, you have proven yourself to once again be a trustworthy citizen deserving of a second chance, as the Parole Board Director notes, you have abided by the established rules and regulations of the DOC over the course of your incarceration, including the requirements to abide by the laws of the Republic of Palau,” Remengesau said in the same letter.

Kangich has sought full pardon of his conviction, saying that he wants to serve the community of the Peleliu State by running for a position in the 13th Peleliu State General Election.

Justice Minister Oilouch, however, is firm on his recommendation, explaining that although Kangich’s efforts in making positive changes in his life is noteworthy, he cannot recommend the approval of his request for pardon.

“…upon review of his case file and taking into account this administration’s stance of zero tolerance in drug related cases, I, at this time, am unable to recommend approval of his request,” Oilouch said in his letter to the President which was also dated October 19, 2018, the same date that Remengesau granted the full pardon to Kangich.

Oilouch’s recommendation was re-echoed by the AG in a memorandum dated October 19, 2018 that was addressed to the former.

“To grant Petitioner’s petition at this time so that he can become a candidate for Peleliu State’s 13th General Election will be a poor reflection on this administrations ‘zero tolerance’ policy toward hard drugs. Moreover, Petitioner’s case is too recent and clemency at this time is too soon for Petitioner who not only pled guilty to but also served time in jail, and was on probation for a drug offense,” the AG stated in the memo.

The AG also noted that Kangich does not take his conviction seriously as it was alleged that he lied in the Questions for Candidates form that was submitted to the Election Commission when he indicated that he had not been previously convicted of a felony when it was the other way around. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)