The United Kingdom has welcomed President Benigno S. Aquino III”s decision to grant clemency to an ailing British national who had been incarcerated for years.
UK Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said he had supported the clemency appeal of William Robert Burton and discussed it during his visit to the Philippines.
“I welcome the news that President Aquino has decided to grant Billy Burton clemency. I supported Billy’s clemency appeal given the compelling, compassionate circumstances of his case, and discussed it with both President Aquino and Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, during my recent visit to the Philippines,” he said in a statement posted on the website of the UK Embassy in the Philippines.
“I know that this news will be warmly welcomed by Billy’s family and his supporters at the Thalidomide Trust who have campaigned tirelessly on Billy’s behalf,” he added.
Burton was convicted for drug trafficking, according to a Malacañang statement.
Last Dec. 21, the President signed the conditional pardon with voluntary deportation of Burton, 49, who was born with thalidomide-damaged arms and whose health is declining.
Burton was arrested in 1992 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for trying to smuggle marijuana out of the country.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 116 after being found guilty of drug trafficking. The verdict was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
The conditions set for Burton’s pardon were: he shall pay a fine of P20,000 imposed upon him by the Pasay court; he shall voluntarily agree to be deported, never to return to the Philippines — he, being an undesirable alien; upon release from the national penitentiary, he shall be turned over to the custody of the Bureau of Immigration for proper disposition; he should shoulder the transportation expenses which will be incurred in his trip and must take the first available means of transportation to Ruffort Yorkshire, England.