Bernadette D. Nicolas & Butch Fernandez
PRESIDENT Duterte on Wednesday fired Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon for disobeying him amid the controversy caused by the agency’s decision to grant early release to heinous crime convicts over good conduct.
“Faeldon has to go because [he] disobeyed my order. No releases,” Duterte told reporters in a news briefing.
The President also asked the 1,700 heinous crime convicts who have been released to surrender in 15 days.
“All 1,700 of you surrender and have yourself registered with the BuCor. I will give you 15 days [of] liberty provided that you will make yourself available when you are called for an investigation to have a recomputation or if there’s an investigation of corruption,” he said.
If they do not surrender, Duterte said he will order their arrest even without a warrant.
He also said he is keen on offering a reward of P1 million per head for those will be able to provide information on heinous crime convicts.
“Surrender to the nearest police or military detachment because I do not need to have a warrant. I will just take them and I will take responsibility. I am ready to be investigated and I am ready for impeachment. I am ready to resign if warranted,” Duterte said.
BuCor data showed that nearly 2,000 heinous crime convicts were released early since 2014, a year after the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law was amended.
The President said corruption may have been behind the decision to grant early release to high-profile convicts.
Affluent prisoners could allegedly earn credits under good conduct time allowance as liberalized by Republic Act 10575 of 2013 in a bid to cut their jail time.
“I suspect that corruption was present there. Some of them may have bought their freedom,” Duterte said in a mix of English and Filipino.
For the meantime, the President said he will not suspend other BuCor officials who are involved in the early release of heinous crime convicts but he will have them investigated by the Ombudsman.
The President also defended Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo, saying he does not see anything wrong in his execution of a “referral” letter for the request for pardon of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez to the Board of Pardons and Parole.
Panelo was one of the lawyers of Sanchez, who was convicted for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta.
“It was not Panelo’s fault that he was the lawyer [of Sanchez],” Duterte said.
“[Panelo] happened to be there because I appointed him when [the Sanchez family] arrived. He referred them to the proper entity. Panelo did not commit any infraction,” he added.
Lawmakers in both houses of Congress sought a full review of the manner in which the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) implemented the law expanding GCTA after rape-murder convict ex-Mayor Antonio Sanchez almost went scot-free.
They said that while they work out ways to amend the laws to plug ambiguities that may be exploited to allow the illegal release of inmates like Sanchez, imposing sanctions on erring officials is up to the Executive.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara affirmed Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao’s observation that people were “scandalized” on hearing reports that Sanchez was almost released from prison earlier. “Kasi maraming nae-iskandalo roon sa nangyari na muntik nang pakawalan si Sanchez,” Angara said, noting that Sanchez was convicted to serve multiple life terms.
Angara also affirmed initial findings of “lapses” in prison management. “How could someone like him [Sanchez] get good-conduct credits—he was accused of possessing drugs; then the pictures show many clear violations of the prison handbook [issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Justice],” Angara said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“Isn’t having a TV set banned? Cellphones are banned? One must be in uniform? So many violations. It’s like, they were all blind to the wrongdoing and only saw good deeds,” Angara added.