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Leila De Lima, Mar Roxas asked to explain GCTA rules
The implementing rules and regulations of the GCTA law were drafted in 2014 by the Department of Justice and Department of the Interior and Local Government, then headed by Leila de Lima and Mar Roxas, respectively.
Geremy Pintolo

Leila De Lima, Mar Roxas asked to explain GCTA rules

Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - September 11, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman wants detained Sen. Leila de Lima and former senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas to explain why the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law that they helped prepare as Cabinet officials of the previous administration qualified convicts of heinous crimes for early release.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires, in separate letters dated Sept. 6, gave De Lima and Roxas three days upon receipt of notice to respond.

De Lima and Roxas were secretaries of justice and the interior and local government, respectively, during the Aquino administration. The GCTA law, contained in Republic Act 10592, was passed in 2013 and the IRR was approved in March 2014.

In his letter, Martires explained that the anti-graft body is conducting “a fact-finding investigation on alleged irregularities in the implementation of Republic Act 10592 by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).”

On Monday, the ombudsman ordered the preventive suspension of 27 BuCor officials. It announced the suspension of three more officials yesterday.

Malacañang said it is confident the investigation being undertaken by the ombudsman would ferret out the truth.

“The expectation is we want the truth on the matter in the Bureau to come out so that heads will roll,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing.

“Apparently, they found probable cause, hence the suspension of 27 officials of that office,” he added.

Martires noted the GCTA law amended the Revised Penal Code to allow shortened prison terms for convicts by crediting the period of their preventive imprisonment in the counting of the number of years of sentence.

He said the law however provided specific exceptions for “recidivists” or for those who “have been convicted previously twice or more times of any crime,” and for those who “failed to surrender voluntarily upon being summoned for execution of sentence,” as well as for “habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes.” The IRR, however, does not contain provision disqualifying convicts of heinous crimes.

“In this regard, this Office requests the submission, within three days from receipt hereof, of a written explanation/clarification on why the foregoing provision in the IRR does not contain the same disqualifications as enumerated in the last paragraph of Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 1 of RA 10592,” Martires said.

The three ordered suspended yesterday were Frederic Anthony Santos, BuCor legal division chief; Maria Fe Marquez, superintendent of the Correctional Institute for Women; and Correctional Officer III Joel Nalva. The ombudsman said they have to vacate their posts as their continued stay “may prejudice the cases filed against them.”

Martires directed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to immediately implement the preventive suspension orders and submit proof of compliance within five days.

Task for BuCor OIC

In response, Guevarra said BuCor officer-in-charge deputy director general for security and operations Melvin Ramon Buenafe would take charge of serving the notices of preventive suspension.

“The DOJ, through its oversight committee, will direct the BuCor OIC to serve the notices of preventive suspension and implement these immediately,” Guevarra said.

“We will confer with the OIC and find ways to continue normal operations with the least disruption,” he added.

The Office of the Ombudsman earlier issued similar suspension orders against 27 prison officials, saying “the evidence in the form of testimonies of witnesses and public documents showing the anomalous release of prisoners convicted of heinous crimes/offenses, appear to be strong.”

Ordered suspended without pay on Monday were Ramoncito Roque, BuCor documents and record section chief; Ma. Belinda Bansil, Corrections Senior Inspector; Benjamin Barrios, supervisor, Board of Discipline, Maximum Security Camp; Gerardo Padilla, chief, New Bilibid Prison Superintendent; Francisco Abunales, NBP, Superintendent; Celso Bravo, OIC, Directorate for Security and Operations; Melencio Faustino, regional superintendent, Davao Prison and Penal Farm; Cherry Caliston, chief, Documents Division, DPPF; Ruelito Pulmano, Inmate Documents and Processing Section; and Emerita Aguilar, chief, Reformation and Rehabilitation Office; Raymund Peneyra, chief overseer, Maximum Security Compound; Jomar Coria, NBP South Reformation coordinator for Education and Training, Maximum Security Compound; Roy Vivo, COG, Maximum Security Compound; Wilfredo Bayona, Deputy Superintendent, NBP South Maximum Security Compound; John Edward Basi, assistant chief, Reformation and Rehabilitation Office, Maximum Security Compound, NBP; Abel Dr. Ciruela, Commander of the Guard – Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee, Maximum Security Compound; Roger Boncales, Directorate for Security and Operations - NBP North; Eduardo Cabuhat, OIC Training and Education Office; and Dr. Lourdes Razon, Medical and Dental Office.

Mary Lou Arbatin, chief, Behavior Mod. Office; Susana Ortega, OIC, Prison Industry Office, Maximum Security Compound; Anthony Omega, OIC, Sports and Recreation Office, Maximum Security Compound; Antonio Calumpit, OIC, Overseer, Maximum Security Compound; Roberto Rabo, Superintendent, NBP; Jones Lanuza, Deputy Superintendent for Reformation, NBP; Victor de Monteverde, chief, Alternative Learning System, Maximum Security Compound; and Veronica Buño, Custodial Officer, NBP.

Medical perks

Aside from the likelihood of their getting released first under GCTA, high-profile prisoners – including drug lords – can pay as much as P2 million for the privilege to stay at the state penitentiary hospital even if they’re not sick, Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Christopher Go said in separate interviews yesterday.

They said they received information that several high-profile convicts have sought confinement at the NBP Hospital or at the medical ward of Building 14, which is supposedly the most-guarded facility in the state penitentiary.

Lacson said the issue would be taken up at tomorrow’s hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee on BuCor irregularities. DOJ’s Guevarra said he has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter.

“So we have to get the records on who are those perennially admitted in the hospital and for how long, and what is really the diagnosis of their illness,” Lacson told reporters.

He said the committee will summon NBP doctors who allegedly issue certifications for inmates’ admission to hospital even if not sick, in exchange for money.

“The reported range is from P20,000 to P2 million for admission and the stay, board and lodging is P30,000 a day,” Lacson said.

“You’re practically free, you’re resting. In the hospital, the environment is different, you’re not too restricted,” he added.

Lacson on Monday told the committee that a raid was conducted in Building 14 last month and at least four mobile phones were recovered.

Go, who visited the NBP on Monday, also received similar reports and lamented that ailing prisoners were the ones not getting any medical attention.

He said a convict told him that at least eight drug convicts in Building 14 had been confined at the facility’s Medical Ward 3 at the medical annex building.

“There’s about eight of them. The illegal drug trade continues in NBP with the hospital as the new venue for transactions,” Go told reporters. Go declined to identify the eight drug convicts, but said one of them was a pastor.

Former BuCor chief and now Sen. Ronaldo dela Rosa admitted he had received reports of rich inmates bribing prison doctors for hospital passes. He headed the bureau from April to October last year.

Dela Rosa mentioned convicted carjacker Raymond Dominguez and drug convict Amin Boratong as among those he ordered removed from the NBP hospital and returned to Building 14.

He however said he was not able to find direct evidence of the convicts making drug transactions.

Dela Rosa said he was willing to be shot if he is proven to be involved in any corruption while at BuCor.

‘Raw reports’

In a related development, DOJ Undersecretary Mark Perete said “raw reports” may have been the basis of the DILG for its statement that “several” convicts released under GCTA may have already left the country.

He said they are seeking clarification from DILG Secretary Eduardo Año regarding his statement that many of the released convicts are now abroad. The President has given the convicts wrongfully released 15 days to surrender or until Sept. 15.

“The Department has sought confirmation from DILG of reports that some prematurely released PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) have left the country. We understand that the DILG is in the course of verifying such raw reports,” said Perete.

“Our understanding is that the DILG made the statement based on reports that reached them. However, counterchecking of the real identities of the individuals can only be done by the Bureau of Immigration (BI),” he said.

The BI, the agency that holds the records of departures, is still in the process of checking its database to see if any of the 1,914 released convicts have really left the country. “We hope to finish counterchecking really soon,” he said.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde yesterday defended the Special Action Force (SAF) from criticisms that it has not prevented the rampant smuggling of contraband to the NBP in Muntinlupa City.

Albayalde said SAF troopers deployed at the NBP should not be blamed for the smuggling of mobile phones, illegal drugs and other illicit items to the facility.

“They have no personal interaction with the prisoners. SAF is there to guard, so let’s not blame them for this,” he said at a briefing at Camp Crame. He stressed that SAF personnel at the NBP are rotated every three to six months to keep them from fraternizing with the prisoners. “There’s no chance they’ll be friends with those inside,” he said in Filipino.

Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) president Arsenio Evangelista lamented during a Senate hearing on GCTA last Monday that smuggling of contraband at the NBP persists despite stricter security. SAF has been in charge of security around the NBP since 2016. BuCor guards provide security within NBP premises. – With Paolo Romero, Alexis Romero, Emmanuel Tupas, Evelyn Macairan

GOOD CONDUCT TIME ALLOWANCE LEILA DE LIMA MAR ROXAS
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