President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. said during a press conference on Wednesday, November 21, that the government’s zero tolerance policy against illegal drugs does not mean that one could no longer be compassionate and be able to give someone a second chance in life.

Remengesau, who recently received backlash for granting pardon to drug convict Kalingo Kangich despite the government’s zero tolerance stance against illegal drugs, said that the zero tolerance policy does not mean that a convicted person will remain a condemned individual who has no chance of making positive changes in his or her life.

Palau’s president clarified that he supports the zero tolerance policy on drugs but this does not take away one’s right to have compassion and to forgive.

“Zero-tolerance doesn’t mean that it will erase your right to have compassion or to forgive toward giving an opportunity for a second chance in life. That is a mekreos el klisiich (power not easily conferred) that the framers of the constitution enshrined in the Palau constitution to give the opportunity for the president to grant pardon to those who can change and be given another start in life,” Remengesau said in Palauan.

Remengesau even said that this is not the first time that he had granted executive clemency or pardon to a convict.

“The question that we should all ask is when is the right timing to do this pardon? A person who deserve pardon. But I believe that you and me can agree that just because it’s zero tolerance doesn’t mean that this person will remain a condemned individual who can’t make changes to better his own life until the end. That is not what zero tolerance mean,” Remengesau said.

Remengesau added that ‘zero tolerance’ is “based on strong investigation, strong Attorney General, strong justice system, and strong laws with appropriate penalties.”

The president said that Kangich, who petitioned for executive clemency saying that he wants to serve the community of the Peleliu State by running for a position in the 13th Peleliu State General Election, was not given the pardon while he was serving time in jail. Kangich, according to Remengesau, has proven himself since he was out of jail and that this makes a difference.

Although Remengesau cited in his letter of pardon to Kangich dated October 19, 2018 that he had decided to grant the full pardon based on two “strong recommendations”, one of it is by the Peleliu State Governor Temmy Shmull, he clarified at the press conference that this did not come solely from the governor but from the recommendation of the people of Peleliu State that Shmull is representing.

“I guess to make things short, this guy is really running for Peleliu in the upcoming state election. I don’t know the sentiment of the Peleliu people, but just imagine if he is voted in to take office, isn’t that a great vindication? Isn’t that a great show of support and a message to someone who has had transgressions with the law but show you have change your ways and want to serve the people so we have voted you in for office. I think that was what pardon was meant to be,” Remengesau said.

Island Times previously reported that Justice Minister and Vice President Raynold Oilouch and Attorney General (AG) Ernestine Rengiil had unitedly asserted the government’s zero tolerance stance against illegal drugs by recommending to not grant the full pardon to Kangich.

Oilouch and 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.

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