Ombudsman probes BuCor officials over heinous crime convicts’ early release

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 5)— The Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday ordered an “exhaustive” investigation of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials linked to the controversial early release of heinous crime convicts.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires has tasked a team of investigators to probe officials who supposedly allowed the release of the convicts under the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GTCA) policy, a provision in the Revised Penal Code which shortens jail time for good behavior.

According to the office’s statement, authorities have already obtained raw data and "pertinent" documents from the bureau. The panel of investigators has also started gathering documents from the Justice Department, the Senate, as well as other relevant government agencies.

Meanwhile, Malacañang said it is backing a probe on all previous BuCor chiefs who saw the early release of heinous crime convicts under the expanded GCTA policy, which was enacted in 2013.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said this is the “logical consequence” of President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for a probe on all officials involved in the freeing of inmates convicted of heinous crimes like rape and murder after they have earned GCTA.

“Lahat ng mga nasa BuCor, those involved, siguro kasama na rin ‘yung mga nagko-compute. Di ba may committee ‘yun,” Panelo said Thursday during a Palace press briefing.

[Translation: All of those involved in the BuCor, maybe including those who compute. Isn’t there a committee?]

Aside from now-sacked BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon, five other people have taken the helm of the BuCor since the GCTA law passed — Franklin Bucayu, Ricardo Cruz III, Rolando Asuncion, Benjamin delos Santos, Valerie Tabian and Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

Under their watch, a total of 1,914 heinous crime convicts were set free because of the policy.

Thousands of convicts released

Dela Rosa earlier admitted during a Senate probe that he signed 120 release orders for heinous crime convicts. He said most of them were "murderers and rapists".

Panelo said Dela Rosa should be probed first to determine whether he should also be held accountable for the release of heinous crime convicts.

“That requires an investigation on whatever circumstances that made him sign release papers. Case to case 'yun, iba naman ‘yung kay Chief Faeldon, kasi ‘yun ang under investigation ngayon,” Panelo said.

[Translation: That requires an investigation on whatever circumstances that made him sign release papers. That’s a case-to-case basis, Chief Faeldon’s case is different because that is what is under investigation now.]

House Justice committee chair Vicente “Ching” Veloso told CNN Philippines’ The Source that previous BuCor chiefs should also be held liable for the release of heinous crimes convicts under the GCTA policy.

“Bear in mind that this good conduct time allowance law is circa 2013, so how many BuCor directors did we have since 2013?” Veloso said Thursday. “I’m not defending Faeldon, but he became BuCor director only for less than a year, so what happens now to those who came ahead of him?”

Data released by the BuCor last week bared that a total of 22,049 prisoners were given freedom since 2014 through the controversial policy.

According to BuCor’s list, majority of the inmates released were convicted of murder (797) and rape (758). Other prisoners who availed of early release include those guilty of robbery (274), illegal drug law violations (48), parricide (29), kidnapping (5), and destructive arson (3).

The agency revealed the numbers amid public outrage on the reported early release of former Laguna town mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted for the 1993 rape-slay of University of the Philippines Los Baños students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday fired Nicanor Faeldon as BuCor chief for supposedly betraying his order to stop the release of more convicts under the GCTA.