966 convicts back in BuCor, at least 1,000 yet to surface

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    CLOSE to 1,000 heinous crimes convicts released on good conduct time allowance (GCTA) were back in the custody of the Bureau of Corrections yesterday, the eve of the deadline set by President Duterte for their surrender.

    At least 1,000 others have yet to surrender. Those who would not show up today would be treated as fugitives. A P1-million bounty is being offered by President Duterte for each fugitive-convict.

    A BuCor list showed 2,160 inmates convicted of heinous crimes have been granted early release since 2015 when the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the GCTA were approved.

    PNP chief Oscar Albayalde earlier said he does not expect all the released convicts to surrender but gave the assurance that tracker teams from the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group will hunt them.

    BuCor spokesman Capt. Eusebio del Rosario Jr. said 966 convicts have surrendered as of 6:30 p.m., including two convicted for the 1997 killing of the Chiong sisters.

    The PNP said as of 6 a.m. yesterday, 523 convicts have surrendered to the police stations nationwide but only 298 have been turned over to BuCor.

    President Duterte on September 4 ordered the freed heinous crimes convicts to surrender within 15 days, because of the BuCor’s questionable implementation of Republic Act No. 10592 or the GCTA law, specifically in the case of former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez who was sentenced to seven life terms for the rape and killing of student Aileen Sarmenta and the killing of her friend Allan Gomez in 1993.

    Sanchez’ supposed release last month sparked public outrage and compelled the Senate to conduct a hearing. The hearings paved the way for the discovery of other anomalies at the BuCor.

    A sixth hearing is scheduled today.

    The PNP said it will wait for proper guidance from the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Justice on the specific move against the convicts who would not surrender.

    “We still have to wait for proper directives from the DILG and DOJ… The PNP is ready to deploy tracker teams para hanapin ang mga hindi sumuko (to find those who did not surrender),” said PNP deputy spokesman Kimberly Molitas.

    The DILG and DOJ on Monday came up with a revised IRR for the GCTA, excluding those convicted of heinous crimes, escapees, delinquents, and recidivists from being granted good conduct allowance.

    BuCor spokesman Capt. Eusebio del Rosario Jr. said of the 966 inmates under BuCor custody, 432 are at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. The rest are in the custody of various other penal colonies managed and supervised by BuCor.

    Aside from the national penitentiary, BuCor also supervises the Abuyog Penal Colony in Leyte, Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City, Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro, San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City, and the Davao Prison and Penal Farm.

    The President, in a chance interview in Malacañang on Tuesday night, joked that he prefers the convicts to be captured dead so that government would not need to provide them with food while in jail.

    “Basta ako sinabi ko, I will just set the timeline and then the P1 million prize is available to those who can capture, dead or alive. But maybe dead would be a better option. I will pay you smiling,” he said.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said there are funds that can be tapped for the bounty, like the intelligence fund of the Office of the President.

    He also clarified that the President’s preference for “dead” convicts only meant that the fugitives can be shot dead if they resist arrest and fight with authorities.

    Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said law enforcers should not take literally President Duterte’s “dead or alive” statement.

    “Law enforcers are supposed to effect peaceful arrest, but they may use reasonable force if the subject of the arrest violently resists and endangers the security of the arresting officer,” Guevarra said.

    Earlier, Guevarra appealed to the inmates to surrender before the deadline expires, adding that failure on their part to do so means they are evading their prison sentence and they can be arrested.

    “We gave you a grace period of 15 days but if you refused without justifiable reason, in effect, you are committing the offense of evasion of prison sentence, so there is legal basis for authorities to have you arrested because you are committing a continuing offense,” he said, adding they can be apprehended without warrant issued by a court since the offense (evasion of sentence) is a continuing crime.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the justice committee may recommend the release of convicts who deserve good conduct time allowances but surrendered because the bounty.

    Sotto said inmates should not be afraid to comply with Duterte’s dictates, and assured them the Senate would “recommend to the [Department of Justice] to release them right away.”

    Even if some of the legitimately released inmates allegedly paid bribes to secure a favorable computation of their GCTA incentives, Sotto argued,  “Sino ang magko-complain (Who will complain)? Is someone complaining?”

    “Provided they are qualified, whether naglagay o hindi… i-release na natin. Kawawa naman (Whether they paid bribes or not, let’s have them released. They’re pitiful),” he told reporters in an interview.

    Sotto said he heard about stories of weakened inmates who got home to their families, but were forced to go back to prison.

    “Kung babalik sila, huwag silang mag-alala (If they will return, they should not worry), because even our committee in the Senate will look into that matter,” he added. – With Raymond Africa, Jocelyn Montemayor and Vince Nonato