JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said “not more than 10” inmates who have been released by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) for good conduct surrendered to authorities after President Duterte on Wednesday night gave them 15 days to present themselves to authorities.
The President gave the ultimatum to some 2,000 convicts of heinous crimes, who were released early on the basis of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) under Republic Act 10592. He issued the ultimatum after he announced he fired Nicanor Faeldon as BuCor chief.
“I have just been informed, confidentially meron (there are), though we cannot mention their names,” Guevarra said during a Senate hearing after he was asked by Sen. Panfilo Lacson for updates.
Lacson said there was no need for Guevarra to identify those who have surrendered but said it is a good indication that there are those who have heeded Duterte’s order.
The Senate Blue Ribbon and justice committees are investigating the application of the GCTA even on those convicted of heinous crimes, including Antonio Sanchez, former mayor of Calauan town in Laguna, who is serving seven life terms for the 1993 rape and murder of a UP-Los Baños student and the murder of another student.
Reports last month that Sanchez was about to be released generated public outrage.
Guevarra also told the Senate that the 1,914 freed heinous crime inmates have been placed by the Bureau of Immigration under the immigration lookout bulletin order or (ILBO).
The issuance of an ILBO would not necessarily prevent a person from leaving the country, unlike a hold departure order. The ILBO only directs immigration authorities to be on the look-out for him or her and verify his or her destination. But a person subject of an ILBO must get an “allow departure order” from the DOJ secretary to be able to leave the country.
One of the beneficiaries surrendered to the Pasay City Police after Duterte’s announcement.
The inmate, Nicanor Naz, was sentenced by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court to life imprisonment in June 1993 for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act. He was released from the Davao Prison and Penal Farm in Davao del Norte last July. Police said the inmate surrendered after hearing Duterte’s order.
BuCor spokesman Sonny del Rosario said four convicts also surrendered to the BuCor.
Cebu police chief Col. Roderick Mariano said Jesus Ranoco Negro Jr. gave himself up to the local police Wednesday night hours after Duterte’s announcement.
Mariano said records showed Negro was committed to the BuCor in March 1990 and was supposed to be officially released next year after he was meted 30 years for eight counts of murder and a frustrated murder. Negro was released from BuCor on August 9. He is now under the custody of Bogo City Police Station in Cebu.
PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said he tapped the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to lead manhunt operations for convicts who will not surrender after the 15-day grace period.
He said police trackers teams will be on a shoot-to-kill stance if the convict opts to violently resist arrest after the 15-day grace period.
Guevarra said two Supreme Court rulings, one in 1967 and one from 2001, provide the legal basis for Duterte’s order to re-arrest those who would not voluntarily surrender.
The two rulings are People vs Tan and City Warden vs Estrella wherein the High Court ordered the re-arrest of inmates who were released due to good behavior.
The first case involved inmate Fidel Tan who was released by prison authorities in 1967 on reduced sentence based on good conduct granted him by a warden of the jail he was detained. But the SC overruled the release saying the warden usurped his authority since the Revised Penal Code granted such power or authority only to the director of prisons.
“The prisoner’s re-arrest would not place him twice in jeopardy because his re-incarceration is merely a continuation of the penalty that he had not completely served due to the erroneous act of the warden, it is not a new or subsequent conviction,” part of the SC ruling said then.
The 2001 case involved the release of 22 detainees of the Manila City Jail again based on good behavior. It was the city jail warden who also issued the release order based on the request of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. But the SC ruled that the authority to grant good conduct allowances to inmates is with the director of prisons and not the jail warden.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said government could seek an extradition, if not ask for the help of police authorities in certain countries, to get back any freed convict.
He expressed belief the other countries would help return the convicts to the Philippines to complete their sentences. – With Rod Lagusad and Raymond Africa