September 22, 2019
GCTA surrenderers number more than heinous crime convicts freed
SEN. Richard Gordon on Saturday described the Department of Justice (DoJ) as a careless records keeper, citing reports that the number of surrenderers under the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law had exceeded the 1,914 heinous crime convicts who were erroneously freed under the rule.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committees on Justice and Human Rights and on the Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon) that are conducting a joint hearing, said the excessive number of surrenderers proved that even the DoJ had no accurate records of prisoners in the country.
“The DoJ, as the agency in-charge of our prisons, should have accurate records of the inmates inside, but it is clear that they do not have one. It was near the 12-midnight deadline set by President [Rodrigo] Duterte for the released prisoners to surrender, but the DoJ had yet to clean up the previously released BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) list, which included wrong entries of crimes for convicts, double entries and even prisoners on parole, which should have guided law enforcement agencies in conducting the rearrest,” he noted.
Gordon slammed the sloppy records keeping at the BuCor, which was made clear when it could not be determined whether some inmates, who turned themselves in, were convicted of heinous crimes.
A television channel on Friday reported that there were so many surrendering ex-convicts that the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) social hall in Muntinlupa City now resembled a city jail.
It said the congestion had gotten so bad that several surenderers had to be moved to the BuCor training hall.
Before the deadline, the total number of surrenderers had reached 2,009, with 1,773 of them in custody of the BuCor and the 236 with the Philippine National Police (PNP).
President Duterte ordered the surrender of all heinous crime convicts mistakenly released via the GCTA Law before September 19, claiming that if they did not, they would be treated as fugitives from the law.
A BuCor official earlier bared that nearly 2,000 prisoners convicted of heinous crimes were released after their sentences were cut short since the law that shaves off jail time for good behavior was passed in 2013.
Of the 22,049 prisoners who were freed under Republic Act 10592, which credits GCTA, 1,914 were convicted of heinous crimes, BuCor legal division chief Fredric Anthony Santos said.
Most of them were supposed to serve long prison sentences for murder (797) and rape (758).
The others were convicted of robbery with violence (274), violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (48), parricide (29), kidnapping with illegal detention (5) and destructive arson (3).
BuCor records show that as of July 2019, there were 47,316 inmates in eight state penitentiaries, with the bulk — 27,756 — held at the NBP.
Meanwhile, Malacañang has clarified that the President’s “dead-or-alive” order against convicts released under the GCTA Law only applies to those who resist arrest.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte did not want GCTA-freed inmates dead, but police would have to defend themselves if push came to shove.
“Hindi, kapag nanlaban. Kapag nanlaban lang hindi naman iyong babarilin mo na lang (It will only happen if they fight back). If they resist arrest, if they fight it out,” Panelo added.
“Kung nanlaban ‘di mas gusto niya na patay mong dalhin sa akin dahil nanlaban (If they fight back, then the President prefers that they are brought to him dead),” he said.
Duterte put up a P1-million bounty for their capture, “dead or alive, but maybe dead would be a better option.”
But the Justice department on Friday ordered a stop to the rearrest of the convicts who failed to surrender after spotting errors in the list of inmates submitted by BuCor.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles also on Friday said the list might be validated and completed by next week, so authorities can rearrest those erroneously freed with “pinpoint accuracy.”
“The PNP cannot implement warrantless arrests until they get the final list from the DoJ,” Nograles said in a news conference.
“We will leave it just to the DoJ how fast they can screen and finalize the list. Hopefully, by next week, it will be clear who must be arrested by the PNP,” he added.
The suspension order issued a day after the ultimatum of Duterte had lapsed starting 12 midnight of Friday for almost 2,000 convicts of heinous crimes to surrender.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Guillermo Eleazar on Saturday day said in the first round of rearresting released convicts under the GCTA Law, seven were caught in Metro Manila.
Before the 15-day grace period, 65 surrendered in NCR.
One-hundred-sixty-four of the 202 on the NCRPO list remain at large.
“To our tracker teams, let us get our acts together to support the President’s command to hunt the said convicts erroneously released due to the GCTA Law,” Eleazar said in a statement.
The arrested freed convicts will be turned over to BuCor for documentation.
WITH REPORTS FROM CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND DARWIN PESCO
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