Senators find flaws in testimonies of Faeldon, Sanchez’s family on ex-mayor’s halted release

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BuCor Chief Nicanor Faeldon says he recalled the order to release Sanchez on the same day he signed it (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 3) — Senators on Tuesday questioned what they found to be flaws in the story of Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Chief Nicanor Faeldon of the day he signed a document to release murder convict and former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

On the second day of the Senate committee probe into the Good Conduct time Allowance (GCTA) Law, Faeldon claimed he moved to recall the order for Sanchez’s release an hour after he signed it. He signed the memorandum at noontime on August 20 and retracted it at around 1:30 p.m., Faeldon recounted.

“That’s why Mr. Sanchez is still in jail. In the same day, few minutes after I signed it, I stopped it because I believe there is something wrong in the granting of his GCTA,” he said.

This prompted speculation from the Senate panel on Faeldon’s actions and his abrupt change of mind regarding Sanchez’s stay in prison.

“For me to sign and then recall, it doesn’t make sense to me…I don’t see any sense in that logic,” said Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson.

Faeldon then clarified that he received a call from a reporter asking him to confirm his approval of Sanchez’s release. This made him think twice and retract his decision, he said.

“It is triggered by a call from one reporter…that’s why within that minute, I ordered the recall even the legal officers says I have no legal basis to stop it,” Faeldon said.

He said the legal officers of the BuCor advised against preventing Sanchez’s early release since he was qualified under the law.

“The legal officer beside me and other lawyers in the bureau, I discussed this with them several times and they continuously reminded me that there is no legal basis to stop the release of Sanchez because all of the requirements for his release under the retroactive effect of Republic Act 10592 is satisfied,” Faeldon explained.

The BuCor chief’s initiative

Faeldon maintained he stopped Sanchez’s release out of his own initiative.

However, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said President Rodrigo Duterte asked him to inform Faeldon to block Sanchez’ release on August 21, after news spread of the murder convict’s looming freedom. Go also said he informed the Justice Department of the President’s request. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who was present in the hearing, confirmed this.

“I received a short phone call from Undersecretary Jenny Ong informing me that or rather requesting that the processing, this is how I understood, that the processing of the carpeta of Mayor Sanchez be held in abeyance,” Guevarra said. Carpeta refers to the inmate's file.

Faeldon said he did not inform Go of his decision to already recall the order before the President stepped in.

He maintained that he did not believe Sanchez was qualified under the law to have an early release.

Lacson found this questionable, since Faeldon already signed the memorandum before he blocked Sanchez’s release.

“There’s some inconsistency here because if I was in your position…kapag ako hindi naniniwala hindi ako magsasign [if I did not believe he was qualified I would not have signed],” Lacson argued.

The BuCor chief added that he was aware of Sanchez’s violations while in prison including stashing illegal drugs and money in his cell. However, he said he only learned about them from television reports and there are no records indicating those violations. Senator Franklin Drilon said this was inconsistent with Faeldon's decision to sign the memorandum.

“[He] was really a good prisoner on basis of the records, so either there was corruption or there was negligence because it is obvious that there was a lot of violations,” Drilon said.

In the middle of the hearing, Lacson left and said he remained unconvinced of the chief’s testimony.

“Obviously he is lying or he was lying yesterday, he is lying today. ‘Yun lang ang [That is the only] conclusion. There is no logical conclusion except that he is not telling the truth,” Lacson told reporters.

Family encounter

Sanchez’ wife Elvira recounted having received a text message on August 20 from an unknown number informing her of her husband’s pending release from prison.

She said, she, along with her children, visited the BuCor and spoke to Faeldon on August 21 to inquire about the status of her husband’s release. She said Faeldon assured her that her husband would walk free within two months if he is qualified under the GCTA law.

Sinabi ko kailan pwede lumabas si mayor kasi nabalitaan namin na palalabasin na kasi siya kahapon. Sabi niya kung qualified si mayor, within two months, makakalabas siya,” Elvira Sanchez told the panel.

[Translation: I said when can the mayor leave because we heard he was to be released yesterday. He said if the mayor is qualified, within two months, he can leave.]

She maintained that she had never met the BuCor chief prior to that meeting.

Faeldon admitted he was not straightforward with the family when he met with them.

“Because they were crying in my office, that’s why I said tactfully, if ex-mayor will qualify in his GCTA, then he will go home in two months’ time,” he said.

When Drilon asked Elvira to show the alleged text messages, she said she discarded her cellphone on the day of the hearing after having received multiple death threats.

The Senate obtained Elvira’s cellphone number — apparently to trace her phone's history — to confirm her statements.