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Department of Justice

DOJ: National Telecommunications Commission can issue provisional franchise to ABS-CBN sans renewal

in News/Tabloid PH News

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified that the National Telecommunications (DOJ) can issue a provisional authority to operate to ABS-CBN should Congress fail to extend its legislative franchise when it expires on May 3.

This was the opinion given by Guevarra during the first day of the Senate hearing on the ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal on Monday (February 24).

“Congress, by concurrent resolution, may authorize NTC to issue provisional authority subject to such terms and conditions , authorizing them (ABS-CBN) to continue operating subject to Congress’s eventual disposition…,” Guevarra said.

NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, who was also questioned during the hearing, said 

with this opinion from the Department of Justice (DOJ), the commission will now wait for the action of Congress and it would give ABS-CBN the provisional franchise.

“We would have to put in the conditions that has to be issued by the NTC so if there are violations to those conditions, then we should be able to withdraw that provisional authority,” Cordoba said.

He recognized that there were indeed instances in the past when companies were allowed to continue to operate even if their franchises had expired. But these were allowed by the NTC based on the instructions given by lawmakers during the congressional hearings on the franchise renewal.

Cordoba said they needed an opinion from the DOJ because the case of ABS-CBN is different since there is a quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General alleging serious violations of the Constitution and laws against the network.

Before questioning the resource persons, senators also gave their opinion on the legality of the hearing they are conducting, as it could be violating the separation of powers among the three branches of government, as prescribed in the Charter, as well as the provision that states all legislative franchises must emanate from the House of Representatives.

The senators agreed that they can proceed with the hearing, as long as they would not report its result to the Senate plenary prior to the submission of the approved bill from the lower chamber. 

The network’s leadership came in full force, including Carlo Katigbak, ABS-CBN president and chief executive officer; Mark Lopez, chairman; Cory Vidanes, chief operating officer for broadcast; Mark Nepomuceno; Ron Valdueza, chief finance officer; Maxim Uy, ABS-CBN Legal Division; Mario Bautista, ABS-CBN General Counsel; and Enrique Quiason, ABS-CBN corporate secretary.

DOJ to formalize Duterte’s order to NBI to take over probe of Mayor Navarro’s murder

in News/Tabloid PH News

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will issue a directive to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) formalizing the order of President Duterte for the bureau to take over the probe of the murder of Clarin, Misamis Occidental Mayor David Navarro.

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete told reporters that the verbal directive of Duterte to the NBI should suffice, as he is the head of the government’s Executive branch. 

“Given the circumstances surrounding the killing of Clarin Mayor Navarro, the President’s directive for the NBI to take over the investigation of the incident should quell any doubts regarding this government’s commitment to solve the case and bring to account those responsible,” Perete said.

The DOJ, he added, will still issue a formal order to the NBI “purely for record-keeping purposes.”

On Monday (October 28), Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to let the NBI conduct the investigation, as he believes the police may have had something to do with the slaying of Navarro.

“PNP, anong ginawa ng PNP? Baka sila ang pumatay, sila ‘yung malapit,” Duterte told reporters, referring to the circumstances surrounding the ambush slaying of Navarro in Cebu City last October 25.  Navarro was then inside a police vehicle in the middle of a police convoy when he was shot to death by several armed men in a “lightning attack”.

He added: “Mas gusto ko ang NBI na lang para walang…kasi nung nangyari ‘yan, may kasamang pulis eh. To make it really fair. I’d like the police to terminate their investigation and hand it to the NBI, whatever documents and or proof or evidence that they have in their hands.” 

Police investigators earlier said they would look into politics, business and Navarro’s reported link to the drug trade as possible motive behind his murder. Navarro had received several death threats before the incident.

A day before his ambush slaying, Navarro was arrested for mauling a massage therapist.

DOJ stops manhunt vs released life termers as number of surrenderers exceeds BuCor’s list

in News/Tabloid PH News

Justice Undersecretary and spokesman Mark Perete announced over radio stations on Friday (September 20) that the manhunt against all heinous crime convicts who were granted early release has been put on hold pending a review of the list of freed prisoners submitted by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

Perete, in separate interviews with DZMM and DZBB, alerted the police and other government authorities that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has decided to suspend operations to re-arrest the released life termers who failed to answer the call of President Duterte for them to surrender on or before September 19.

The reason for this is the apparent mistakes made on the list of heinous crime convicts that were released by the BuCor due to the liberal application of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10592.

Perete said records they have gathered from concerned state agencies showed that the number of PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) who surrendered to authorities as of Thursday midnight already reached 1,950. This is already above the 1,914 life termers who were listed by the BuCor.

“Tinanong namin sa Bureau of Corrections at that point na paano nangyari na mas marami yung actual surrenderers than those included in the list,” he said in the DZBB interview. “So ngayon because of that we requested our PNP (Philippine National Police) to hold yung kanilang rearrest kasi kailangan na naming linisin ngayon yung original na list ng Bureau of Corrections.”

Authorities have shown eagerness to implement the order of Duterte to re-arrest the freed life termers who would fail to meet his September 19 deadline to surrender. The President also offered a P1-million bounty.

The National Capital Region Police Office, for instance, announced that it would be deploying its tracker teams for the manhunt operation.

Aside from suspending the manhunt, Perete said the DOJ also wants the authorities to release all those who surrendered but were not on the BuCor list.

He told DZMM there are already at least 40 surrendered PDLs that should be released immediately. These are those who were already granted pardon or parole.

Surrenderers near 700 as De Lima refuses to answer Ombudsman query on GCTA IRR

in News/Tabloid PH News

As of 8 a.m. on Tuesday (September 17), at least 692 convicts that were granted early release purportedly for good behavior have surrendered to authorities, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

These convicts, according to Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete, are among the 1,914 life termers that were freed due to the “erroneous” application of the good conduct time allowance of Republic Act (RA) 10592.

They heeded the call of President Duterte to surrender on or before September 19 or risk becoming the subjects of manhunt operations with accompanying bounty.

Perete said these convicts will have to serve out the remainder of their sentence, especially under the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10592 that was signed by the Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano on Monday.

The new IRR clearly stated that escapees, habitual delinquents, recidivists and heinous crime convicts are excluded from the application of the GCTA benefits.

Around 22,000 prisoners have been granted early release since 2014 when RA 10592 was implemented.

However, based on the Senate inquiry into the GCTA application, some of these convicts did not deserve to be freed, as some benefited from what is now called “GCTA for sale”. This illegal scheme was uncovered in one of the Senate hearings, after a witness said Bureau of Correction (BuCor) officials demanded P50,000 from her in exchange for the early release of her husband.

Around 30 BuCor officials were already ordered suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman due to alleged involvement in this scheme.

Analysts say the ambiguity of the law and its IRR allowed the liberal application of the GCTA. This prompted the revision of the IRR so rules can be clarified while Congress is working on a revised version of the law.

Senator Leila De Lima, the DOJ secretary when RA 10592’s original IRR was crafted, has been asked by the Ombudsman to comment why they did not clearly exclude heinous crime convicts in the GCTA application.

She answered:  “[I] would like to clarify that I am no longer the Secretary of Justice. I am now a Senator of the Republic. I cannot in my official capacity as a Senator reply to a query that exclusively pertains to official business of the Department of Justice whose present Secretary is Menardo Guevarra.” 

De Lima, added in her three-page letter to the Office of the Ombudsman: “Whatever query you may have regarding the IRR, therefore, may be properly and officially answered by the DOJ and the DILG, being the institutions and agencies responsible for the implementation of said IRR.”

“It is not clear in your letter whether you are requiring me to do so in my personal capacity or in my capacity as Senator. Either way, I find no relevance in either capacities or as former Secretary of Justice to be able to officially annotate on the language of the IRR beyond what it provides in its provisions.”

House justice committee to conduct own GCTA probe, eyes revision of RA 10592

in News/Tabloid PH News

The House Committee on Justice is likely to conduct its own hearing on the application of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10592, with the revision of the law to “avoid absurdity and confusion” as the end in view.

Assistant Majority Leader Fidel Nograles, who is also the vice chair of the justice committee, said they will focus on reviewing Article 29 and Article 97 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by RA 10592, noting that these two need to be reconciled.

“In Article 29, which speaks of credit for preventive imprisonment, has certain exclusions which are not found in Article 97…The conflicting part, these exclusions are not found in Art. 97 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by the GCTA, because all that we can find in Art. 97 is that persons who are entitled to credits for preventive imprisonment and persons convicted by final judgement and detained in penal institutions,” Nograles said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel on Friday (September 13).

“You have to reconcile because you have to harmonize the two provisions , such as to give effect to all of the provisions of the law so there has to be specific exclusions, specifically in Art. 29, you need to adopt these exclusions on Art. 97 as well in order to avoid confusion.”

Article 29 excludes habitual delinquents, escapees, persons charged with heinous crimes and recidivists from the GCTA scheme.

Nograles also said they are looking at giving a clearer definition of what “heinous crimes” are.  Right now, heinous crimes, as defined by the death penalty law, are those that are ”grievous, odious, hateful offenses of such monstrosity as to spark public outrage”.

The Senate justice and blue ribbon committees are now conducting hearings on the GCTA, with illegal practices such as the “GCTA for Sale” and “Hospital Pass for Sale” already uncovered. 

Former and current officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), as well as several experts, had said the ambiguities in RA 10592, and even its implementing rules and regulations (IRR), led to liberal application of the GCTA that resulted in the early release of some 2,000 heinous crime convicts since 2014. The controversy became the talk of the town after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced last August 20 that even convicted killer-rapist Antonio Sanchez was set for early release because of the GCTA scheme.

More than a hundred life termers who were released due to RA 10592 have already surrendered after they were given by President Duterte 15 days to present themselves to authorities. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that a revised IRR is due for release next week. This is the product of the joint review conducted by the DOJ and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). “The Joint Review Committee has completed its work and submitted the draft IRR to the Secretaries of Justice and of the Interior and Local Government,” Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete told reporters. “Both will now review the draft IRR and decide on its promulgation.”

Final word from DOJ: Sanchez to stay in prison for rest of sentence

in News/Tabloid PH News

It’s final—convicted killer-rapist Antonio Sanchez will stay in jail to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

This was stressed by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which finally stated in clear terms and with finality that the former mayor of Calauan, Laguna is not qualified to avail himself of the Good Time Conduct Allowance (GCTA) benefits under Republic Act (RA) 10592.

Justice Undersecretary Mark Perete said in an interview over radio station DZBB said 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 Bureau of Corrections (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.”

This should put to rest the fears over the early release of Sanchez, who was sentenced to seven life imprisonment in 1995 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. The Supreme Court sustained the ruling in 1999.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra triggered an uproar after he announced that thousands of prisoners and inmates, including Sanchez, could be released within two months based on the provisions of RA 10592, which was enacted into law in 2013.

This was after the SC ruled that the BuCor, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and other concerned agencies should apply the law retroactively.

This means that in the computation of the GCTA of prisoners and inmates, the review should cover periods before 2013.

Malacanang then clarified that the law is clear that those convicted of heinous crimes are not qualified to avail themselves of GCTA benefits. Rape is considered a heinous crime under Philippine laws.

“Let’s look at it this way: When the BuCor said na merong 11,000 that could possibly benefit from the law, included lahat. Pero bawat isa kasi noon dapat nilang i-evaluate if they are excluded based on the provisions of the law, and then if they would benefit once they are believed to be included,” Perete said.

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