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Ombudsman recommends suspension, filing of charges vs 27 BuCor officials over GCTA mess

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Ombudsman recommends suspension, filing of charges vs 27 BuCor officials over GCTA mess
Image Credit: @OmbudsmanPH / FB

The Office of the Ombudsman has recommended to the Department of Justice (DOJ) the suspension of 27 officials and personnel of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) over the “anomalous release” of heinous crime convicts using the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10592.

Among those recommended for suspension for six months without pay were Ramoncito Roque, BuCor Documents and Record Section chief, and Corrections Senior Insp Ma. Belinda Bansil, who were identified by witnesses as behind the so-called “GCTA for sale” scheme during the Senate hearing on the controversy.

Also listed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires for suspension were:

  1. Benjamin Barrios, Supervisor, Board of Discipline, Maximum Security Camp
  2. Gerardo Padilla, Chief, NBP Superintendent
  3. Francisco Abunales, NBP, Superintendent
  4. Celso Bravo, Officer-in-Charge, Directorate for Security and Operations
  5. Melencio Faustino, Regional Superintendent, Davao Prison and Penal Farm
  6. Cherry Caliston, Chief, Documents Division, Davao Prison and Penal Farm
  7. Ruelito Pulmano, Inmate Documents and Processing Section
  8. Emerita Aguilar, Chief, Reformation and Rehabilitation Office
  9. Raymund Peneyra, Chief Overseer, Maximum Security Compound
  10. 10.Jomar Coria, NBP South Reformation Coordinator for Education and Training, Maximum Security Compound
  11. Roy Vivo, COG, Maximum Security Compound
  12. 12.Wilfredo Bayona, Deputy Superintendent, NBP South Maximum Security Compound
  13. 13.John Edward Basi, Assistant Chief, Reformation and Rehabilitation Office, Maximum Security Compound, NBP
  14. 14.Abel Dr. Ciruela, Commander of the Guard -Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee, Maximum Security Compound
  15. 15.Roger Boncales, Directorate for Security and Operations -NBP North
  16. 16.Eduardo Cabuhat, OIC Training and Education Office
  17. 17.Dr. Lourdes Razon, Medical and Dental Office
  18. 18.Mary Lou Arbatin, Chief, Behavior Mod. Office
  19. 19.Susana Ortega, OIC, Prison Industry Office, Maximum Security Compound
  20. 20.Anthony Omega, OIC, Sports and Recreation Office, Maximum Security Compound
  21. 21.Antonio Calumpit, OIC, Overseer, Maximum Security Compound
  22. 22.Roberto Rabo, Superintendent, NBP
  23. 23.Jones Lanuza, Deputy Superintendent for Reformation, NBP
  24. 24.Victor de Monteverde, Chief, Alternative Learning System, Maximum Security Compound  and
  25. 25.Veronica Buño, Custodial Officer, NBP

Martires asked the DOJ to effect their suspension within five days. They will also be charged with grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

“The office finds that the evidence in the form of testimonies of witnesses and public documents showing the anomalous release of prisoners convicted of heinous crimes appear to be strong,” Martires said in his six-page decision issued on Monday (September 9).

PACC says GCTA law’s ambiguity not an excuse for prison officials, to exclude Dela Rosa in probe

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Image Credit: OFFICIALPAGEofRonaldBatoDelaRosa / FB

President Duterte’s own probing body—the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC)—will not go easy on its investigation into possible administrative and criminal culpabilities of former and current prison officials who had a hand in the early release of heinous crime convicts due to erroneous implementation of good conduct time allowance (GCTA) benefits under Republic Act (RA) 10592.

But the PACC said former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief and now Senator Ronald dela Rosa will not be called by the agency in respect of the Senate, which dela Rosa is now representing.

PACC Commissioner Manuelito Luna said the law’s ambiguity or following ongoing practice—now the reasons being used by former and current BuCor officials in approving the release of heinous crime convicts—will not exculpate anyone in their probe.

“They thought that was right because that was the practice. But ignorance of the law excuses no one,” Luna was quoted in a report of ABS-CBA News.

He said the PACC’s target is to submit its findings and the accompanying recommendations to Duterte in less than 60 days. “The circumstances dictate we have to submit our recommendations to President as soon as possible.”

The PACC, under Executive Order (EO) 73 signed by Duterte in December 2018, has the authority to probe government officials and after due investigation recommend the filing of criminal charges before the Office of the Ombudsman or Department of Justice (DOJ).

PACC chief Dante Jimenez, in an interview with the Manila Times, said they are conducting the probe on GCTA “to make those officials at BuCor answerable from 2014-2019 since the start of the releases of convicts on heinous crimes.” 

The Senate is also investigating the early release of prisoners under the GCTA law, but Jimenez said the “Senate hearing is in aid of Legislation only.”

Data showed around 2,000 convicts of heinous crimes have been released under the GCTA provisions since RA 10592 was enacted in 2013, including three of the seven BuCor prisoners who were convicted in the rape-slay of the Chiong sisters. Former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio L. Sanchez , a convicted killer-rapist sentenced to seven life imprisonment, was almost released, but the public outcry forced the DOJ and the BuCor not to cancel it. 

Luna said current BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon will be placed under the PACC. It will also investigate former BuCor officials, except dela Rosa, because he is now representing the Senate, a co-equal branch of the Executive.

But dela Rosa, Luna said, can also volunteer to be included in the PACC probe.

Luna, however, advises dela Rosa against it, noting “he represents the Senate, and therefore he has to think of the institutional independence of the Senate.” 

Duterte had nothing to do with early release of heinous crime convicts — Panelo

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Duterte had nothing to do with early release of heinous crime convicts -- Panelo
Image Credit: pcoo.gov.ph

As the Senate continues its probe on the early release of convicts for good behavior under Republic Act (RA) 10592, Malacanang on Tuesday (September 3) made it clear that President Duterte did not have any hand in the orders of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to free prisoners serving life imprisonment for heinous crimes.

Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, said it is very clear that the “ambiguous” RA 10592 and its “flawed” implementing rules and regulations (IRR) were crafted and enacted during the previous administration. 

Aside from this, Panelo stressed that the review of prisoners’ good conduct time allowance (GCTA) and release are functions of the BuCor and do not reach the halls of Malacanang under the law.

“The actual computation of GCTA does not pass through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and therefore will not even reach the Office of the President before its benefits can be granted to qualified inmates. We stress that the granting of GCTA is not a form of executive clemency, the awarding of which belongs to the Office of the President. The buck, in this case, stops with the Bureau of Corrections,” he said.

Still, Panelo said the President has directed the DOJ to review the law’s implementation to make sure the early release of heinous crime convicts will no longer continue.

“The President will not tolerate any form of injustice being committed under his watch and it is for this reason that he will ensure that the practice initiated by the past administration on the granting of GCTA will no longer continue,” he said.

Duterte also directed the DOJ to determine if the freed convicts can still be brought back to prison. He also wants the Congress to start the process of amending the law.

The Senate is now on the second day of its probe of the GCTA law. On Monday, BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon admitted that he did sign the release order of convicted killer-rapist Antonio L. Sanchez. He also said Josman Aznar, Ariel Balansag and Alberto Caño, three of the seven rapists and killers of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong, had been freed due to the GCTA law.

Meanwhile, Cayagan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, one of the authors of RA 10592, said Faeldon should be charged for the early release of heinous crime convicts.

“He did not harmonize the law. He did not see that this exclusion is to the entire act so therefore there should have been no release and absolutely no release of those involved in heinous crimes,” Rodriguez said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart, referring to the provisions of RA 10592 that disqualify heinous crime convicts from the GCTA benefits.

Faeldon, according to Rodriguez, is liable under Section 6 of Republic Act No. 10592, which states that any public officer or employee who violates the provisions of the act could face one year imprisonment, a fine of P100,000 and perpetual disqualification to hold office.

Faeldon blames implementing rules of GCTA law in early release of heinous crime convicts

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Faeldon blames implementing rules of GCTA law in early release of heinous crime convicts
Image Credit: Phil News Agency

With senators quizzing him on the early release of heinous crime convicts, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon on Monday (September 2) passed the blame on the implementing rules of Republic Act (RA) 10592 that he said they only followed in reviewing the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) of prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison.

Faeldon stressed before members of the Senate Blue Ribbon and Justice committees that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) RA 10592 issued in 2014 did not disqualify those convicted of heinous crimes.

Image Credit: Philippine News Agency

Faeldon was forced to attend the Senate hearing after he was subpoenaed by the lawmakers to answer queries regarding the implementation of the GCTA provisions, which already led to the early release of more than 20,000 prisoners, with close to 2,000 of them convicted of heinous crimes.

The controversial law and the BuCor have been on the spotlight for two weeks now after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced last August 20 that around 11,000 inmates and prisoners are due for release in the next two months due to the retroactive implementation of the GCTA, including convicted killer-rapist Antonio L. Sanchez.

This immediately drew the ire of the public, until President Duterte himself said Sanchez is not qualified to avail of the GCTA benefits because RA 10592 does not cover those convicted of heinous crimes.

The decision of Duterte, who served as a prosecutor before he became mayor of Davao City, was later affirmed by the Department of Justice. 

Reports, however, surfaced that Sanchez, who was sentenced to seven life imprisonment in 1995 for the rape-slay of University of the Philippines – Los Banos student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend Allan Gomez in 1993, was indeed about to be freed, with his release order purportedly signed by Faeldon. 

The BuCor chief told the senators that the IRR of RA 10592 mandated them to apply the GCTA provisions to all prisoners.

“All convicted of any crime when they behave well in jail, they were granted GCTA. You will notice that not a single PDL (persons deprived of liberty) has not been denied in whole of GCTA,” Faeldon noted.

Image Credit: Philippine News Agency

The only time a prisoner cannot avail himself of the GCTA benefits, Faeldon added, is on the month he violated prison rules. In the succeeding months, however, when the prisoner behaves, “the granting of GCTA resumes regardless of the gravity of these offenses.”

He added: “Even grave offenses like drugs confiscated inside their cells, they are only penalized for one month. This has been their application [of the law] since 2014 up to this day.”

Guevarra echoed Faeldon’s view, noting that the wordings of the GCTA provisions probably created a confusion in the implementation.

But he said the DOJ is now of the opinion that those convicted of heinous crimes are indeed disqualified from the GCTA benefits.

OPINION: BUCOR’s Chief Faeldon, SUMMONED BY SENATE

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BUCOR's Chief Faeldon, summoned by the Senate

Manila – GCTA  Suspended, Senate step – in to clarify.

Malacañang Palace will go after to some officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BUCOR) who are responsible for the release of 22 high profile convicted for drug trafficking, kidnapping with ransom, Murder, Rape with murder, carnapping and parricide (including those Chinese, convicted for drug trafficking, fowarded to Immigration for deportation) due to misinterpretation of R.A. 10592 Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

The information published due to uproar of the public after the announcement that convicted for 7 counts for murder and rape, former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez is possible to be released.

In my personal opinion:

I honestly believe that R.A. 10592 passed by the 15th Congress and signed into law by former President Benigno “Noynoy” S. Aquino on May 29, 2013, with a clean conscience and clear mind that objectively, those who will be granted earlier release are only those who are qualified in accordance with the provisions of the said law.

The case of Antonio Sanchez and those who were granted liberty due to GCTA, which is now the subject of Senate Inquiry, scheduled tommorow, wherein the subpoena has been sent to BUCOR Chief Faeldon.

The said Senate Inquiry will enlighten the public, what is/are the provision/s of that law, which seems confussing and disadvantageous to the best interest of Filipino majority. And to what point some Bucor officials has made it more conflicated and/or incomprehensible.

Ironically, the implementation of the GCTA law has been temporarily suspended, a bad news to those PDL (persons deprived of liberty) convicted of minor offense, who are incarcerated to provincial, city and municipal jails, their expectations to be reunited with their loved one are impossible to happen before Christmas Season, having said so, congested jail will be come more problematic.
(Bro.Fred/FM🇵🇭)

https://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2013/ra_10592_2013.html

Sanchez indeed set to be freed based on order purportedly issued by Faeldon

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Sanchez indeed set to be freed based on order purportedly issued by Faeldon

A disturbing news reported by GMA News TV said convicted rapist-killer Antonio Sanchez was indeed set to be released from prison based on a memorandum purportedly issued by Nicanor Faeldon, chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

A copy of the document obtained by GMA News TV showed prisoner “Sanchez Leyza Antonio”, the name of the former Calauan, Laguna mayor, was already qualified for release under Republic Act (RA) 10592.

The document said Sanchez “was found to have served 40 years upon retroactive application of RA No. 10592 and was certified to have no other legal cause to be further detained, shall be released from confinement.”

The memorandum was issued on August 20, 2019 and bore the signature of Faeldon. 

The BuCor chief had earlier denied issuing a memorandum ordering Sanchez’ release. He said if such a document indeed existed, it would have been sent to his office already for his approval.

In the report of GMA News TV, the relatives of Sanchez said they have been informed of his release and were already preparing to fetch him at the New Bilibid Prisons.

It was also on August 20 when Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra made the announcement that thousands of prisoners, including Sanchez, were set to be released in the next two months based on the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) provisions of RA 10592.

This, however, stirred public outcry, with President Duterte himself saying Sanchez is disqualified from availing himself of the GCTA benefits because he was convicted of heinous crimes.

Sanchez was sentenced to seven life imprisonment in 1995 for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines – Los Banos student Eileen Sarmenta, as well as the killing of her friend Allan Gomez.

The Department of Justice also confirmed that Sanchez was not eligible for release under RA 10592.

Faeldon has not yet responded to the GMA News TV report as of Saturday (August 31) morning. However, the report also said Faeldon’s signature in the Sanchez release memorandum is different from his signature in another document.

Duterte sealed Sanchez’ fate as early as Aug. 21

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Duterte sealed Sanchez’ fate as early as Aug. 21
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech during the inauguration of the Tumingad Solar Power Project in Odiongan, Romblon on August 21, 2019. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Duterte sealed the fate of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez as early as August 21, when the Chief Executive gave his order to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) not to release the convicted killer-rapist after personally reviewing the case.

This means that Duterte decided on the matter just a day after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made the announcement on August 20 that thousands of prisoners and detainees, including Sanchez, could be freed within two months due to the retroactive implementation of Republic Act (RA) 10592’s provisions on good conduct time allowance (GCTA).

This was disclosed by Senator Bong Go, who served as Duterte’s special assistant, in an interview with GMA7 on Monday morning (August 26).

He said: ”Nung nalaman ni Pangulong Duterte yang balitang yan, ipinarating niya po kay BuCor chief Nick Faeldon at kay Secretary Guevarra na huwag i-release [si Sanchez] upon the order of the higher authority.”

Go continued: ”Sino pa ba ang higher authority? Not higher authorities, higher authority. Ibig sabihin ang Pangulo.”

That order from the “higher authority” was relayed to Guevarra and Go on the night of August 21.

It was just a day after Guevarra made the announcement on the possible release of Sanchez that immediately stirred a public outcry.

Sanchez was sentenced to seven life imprisonment in 1995 by a Pasig City court for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines (UP) – Los Banos student Eileen Sarmenta, as well as the killing of her friend Allan Gomez, in 1993. The Supreme Court sustained the ruling in 1999.

 Go said the news on the possible release of Sanchez so angered Duterte that the President—who worked as a prosecutor before he became mayor of Davao City— reviewed the case personally.

“Abugado po ang Pangulo. Pinag-aaralan niya ang batas. Excluded po siya (Sanchez) dun sa Republic Act No. 10592. Sa Section 1, excluded ang lahat ng heinous crimes,” Go said in the GMA7 interview.

Earlier, Justice Undersecretary Mark Perete said it’s been decided that Sanchez will not get a reduced sentence based on DOJ’s determination.

“So, in this case, since may determination na excluded ‘yung kaso ni ex-mayor Sanchez, then hindi na dapat siya i-evaluate,” Perete said.

Under RA 10592, which amended sections of the Revised Penal Code, the BuCor will review who can benefit from the GCTA provisions of the law from among its prisoners. BuCor is under the supervision of the DOJ. 

Asked further if it was already safe to conclude that Sanchez has no hope of benefiting from the GCTA provisions and will be serving the remainder of his sentence, Perete answered: “That is correct. Because he is excluded from the benefits of the GCTA law.”

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