Duterte: Convicts released under GCTA have 15 days to turn themselves in

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4) — President Rodrigo Duterte has given a deadline for all convicts released under the controversial good conduct time allowances (GCTA) to turn themselves in.

At a press briefing in Malacañang Wednesday, Duterte said they had 15 days to surrender or else risk being treated like fugitives.

"Lahat na nakulong at na-release sa batas na ito [All those released under this law], 1,700 of you, you surrender and have yourselves registered with the BuCor (Bureau of Corrections). I will give you 15 days liberty provided you make yourself available any time that you will be called for investigation to have a recomputation or, if there is an investigation of corruption that you cooperate fully," said the President.

Duterte said should they choose not to turn themselves in, "beginning at this hour, you are a fugitive from justice" and will be treated as criminals running from the law.

He urged the former convicts to surrender to the police or military.

The President said he need not give a warrant for the arrests, adding he would take full responsibility for the consequences connected with his decision.

"I am ready to be investigated, and I am ready for an impeachment. And I am ready to resign if warranted, but that is my decision and that is mine and mine alone," he said.

Anyone who follows his orders, the President said, will be treated in good faith.

Duterte stressed prisoners who were wrongly freed can be rearrested because they have to serve their sentences fully.

He also said he was taking charge of all investigations and delegating them to the Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

"Lahat ng committee [All committees], whether it's board pardon or anything, it will pass through a committee," he said.

Duterte likened himself to a fireman who was trying to put out a blaze.

"In this case, not really to put out the case, but to have it investigated thoroughly. And the best way to do it is really for the Ombudsman to take over. As I said, no need for affidavits because the records will show there has been a wrong committed and maybe corruption," he said.

Duterte also said he would decide in 3 days if he will raise a ₱1-million bounty for each of the heinous crime convicts who have been freed due to the expanded good conduct time allowance GCTA law.

"Dead or alive," said the President.

The President said he would also ask Congress to amend the law.

Meanwhile, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon told CNN Philippines the government must prepare for the impending surrender of freed inmates.

"Can they surrender to the local police forces? Are all the local police forces given a list of all those who surrendered and how they will communicate this to the BuCor or the local government?" he said.

Gordon added the bureaucracy "must be swift, must be smooth, it must be predictable. They must know where to go."

Gordon also said those who voluntarily surrender could get some consideration for their loyalty under a bill that he filed to ammend the GCTA provisions.

Gordon filed Senate Bill 974 in August, seeking to amend Republic Act 10592 that increased the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for prisoners.

Republic Act 10592 was enacted by former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, amending several parts of the Revised Penal Code. These include section 97, which tackles the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for prisoners who showed good conduct while in detention.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, meanwhile, said that after 15 days the Philippine National Police would "track and arrest" those who would not surrender.

"I already issued orders to Chief PNP to prepare the tracking teams," he added.

RA 10592 at least doubled the previous GCTAs and expanded the coverage of GCTA to include those under preventive imprisonment.

Public discussions on the law followed news that former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez could benefit from it. Sanchez was convicted for the rape and murder of Aileen Sarmenta and for the killing of Allan Gomez.

However, Duterte blocked Sanchez' possible early release.

Senator Bong Go, Duterte's former aide, said the President directly ordered the Bureau of Corrections and Justice Department to stop Sanchez's release, because the good conduct-based sentence reduction policy categorically excluded persons charged with heinous crimes.