PRESIDENT Duterte last night fired Nicanor Faeldon as head of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) for disobeying his order to stop the release of convicts under good conduct time allowance (GCTA), including former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez.
Sanchez is serving seven life terms for rape and murder and would have been freed soon under the GCTA if not for public outrage.
Faeldon, in a Twitter post, said: “My commander in chief/appointing authority has spoken. I am a Marine and a Marine does as he is told. I most humbly bow to my commander in chief’s order without any hard feelings.”
The President, in a briefing in Malacañang, also told heinous crimes convicts who have been released for good conduct to immediately surrender in three days. He said he is considering a bounty of P1 million per convict who would not surrender, to hasten his or her arrest. He said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III is already looking for funds.
BuCor officials, during a House hearing on Tuesday, said some 18,885 convicts have been released under the GCTA law since 2013, including about 2,160 inmates convicted of heinous crimes. Duterte used the figure of around 1,700 convicts.
Duterte said he is ordering the police and the military to immediately arrest the GCTA beneficiaries, dead or alive, as he urged them to present themselves to authorities, have themselves registered, and make themselves available for investigations on the GCTA implementation.
Duterte initially announced he is “demanding the resignation of Faeldon” immediately. He said “Faeldon has to go because he disobeyed my order.”
The President said it is between him and Faeldon, when asked if he still trust him.
He did not answer when asked if he would re-appoint Faeldon to another position.
Duterte first appointed Faeldon as head of the Bureau of Customs but removed him due to continuing corruption in the agency and after billions worth of illegal drugs slipped into the country through local ports.
Duterte did not name a replacement.
The President ordered the Ombudsman to investigate BuCor officials since 2015 when release of the convicted felons under GCTA started.
Asked if Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, former PNP chief and Faeldon’s predecessor, would be included, Duterte expressed confidence he would be ready to submit himself to the probe.
The President said he reached his decision last night but had also talked with his Cabinet officials about it. Present during the announcement were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.
Duterte said there is corruption in the BuCor, including in the implementation of the GCTA.
He said some people may have paid or “bought” something to qualify for the GCTA.
“With Faeldon out, I am ordering all who had had the opportunity to be in that committee, all of them are with the BuCor, to report to me and to the Secretary of Justice. In the meantime, I will not suspend them but they will be investigated. Diretso na ito sa (This will go straight to the) Ombudsman. This is a prima facie case. There’s an admission that they were remiss in their duties,” he added.
On the freed heinous crimes convicts, Duterte said, “I will give you 15 days liberty provided you make yourself available anytime that you will be called for investigation to have a re-computation or if there’s an investigation of corruption that you cooperate fully.”
Duterte said those who would not surrender would be considered fugitives and be treated as criminals evading the law.
He said he would not wait for a warrant to be issued for their arrest, saying there is a law that allows the re-arrest of convicts.
“Now there is a law as relayed to us in the Cabinet meeting by Secretary Guevarra (Justice
Secretary Menardo Guevarra) that when you are released based on a wrongful interpretation or a faulty construction of the law, you can be arrested anytime because you have to serve your sentence fully as the order is null and void,” he said.
The President said he would assume responsibility for the police or military if they would re-arrest the GCTA beneficiaries.
“I am ready to be investigated and I’m ready for an impeachment. And I’m ready to resign if warranted. But that is my decision and that is mine and mine alone. So anybody acting upon my orders will be treated as exercising good faith,” he said.
The President reiterated the GCTA was passed under the previous administration (2013) and it was just being implemented now.
Duterte said the problem was there had been some misinterpretation of the law.
He said he is leaving it to Guevarra in coordination with Año to review the IRR and take actions.
He admitted that a lot of people had been angry about the release of some convicted felons under the GCTA including him.
The President said if it were up to him, he would have the convicts executed, if allowed.
Duterte also defended Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, one of the former lawyers of Sanchez.
He said Panelo did not commit any infraction no was there any conflict of interest since he
was not directly involved in the decision about the release of the convicts.
Panelo has said he met with the family of Sanchez twice and had referred their request for clemency for the former mayor to the Board of Pardon and Parole. He said the request of the Sanchez family was not related to the GCTA but to the grant of executive clemency.
Duterte said there was nothing wrong in Panelo’s referring of the request to the right office.
He added that he does not see anything wrong in the Sanchezes’ consulting of Panelo now about the case of the former mayor since he was their former legal counsel.
The President said lawyering was Panelo’s job then and that he merely referred the request to the appropriate office.