Justice department may need 'some form of control' over BuCor amid GCTA mess
File photo shows Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in a press conference at the Department of Justice office in Padre Faura, Manila.
The STAR/Edd Gumban, file

Justice department may need 'some form of control' over BuCor amid GCTA mess

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - September 13, 2019 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:15 p.m.) — Amid controversy on corruption at Bureau of Corrections, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Friday that the law that reduced the Department of Justice’s authority over the bureau should be reviewed.

“I am beginning to think that the law itself that supposedly strengthened the BuCor (and consequently diminished DOJ control over it) may have to be reviewed,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

The Justice secretary is referring to Republic Act 10575, which was signed into law in July 2012.

Part of the law reads: “The DOJ, having the BuCor as a line bureau and a constituent unit, shall maintain a relationship of administrative supervision with the latter...except that the DOJ shall retain authority over the power to review, reverse, revise or modify the decisions of the BuCor in the exercise of its regulatory or quasi-judicial functions.”

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said that it may be appropriate if the DOJ retain “some form of control” over the Bureau.

Perete, who is also DOJ’s spokesperson, explained that since the passage of the law, “DOJ can only exercise administrative supervision over the BuCor instead of control.”

“This is also the law used by BuCor’s legal to justify its assertion that its decision as regards to the release of high profile inmates do not need notice to, much less prior approval by, the [Secretary of Justice],” Perete, who is also DOJ’s spokesperson, added.

In a follow-up message, Perez said the DOJ may have to retain "the power to review, reverse, revise or modify decisions of the BuCor relate to regulatory or quasi-judicial decisions (e.g. appeal from decisions in disciplinary cases and the like)."

"Release of prisoners and other important BuCor functions is not included there, except when raised on appeal," he also said.

The Senate inquiry into the Good Conduct and Time Allowance law found that Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa signed release orders of about 120 heinous crimes convicts when he was Corrections chief.

This was despite a 2015 Department Order that states that the Justice secretary’s approval is needed before prisoners serving life terms and reclusion perpetua—the punishment which may be meted for some heinous crimes—would be released.

Guidelines on GCTA law submitted

Perete also clarified that the call for a possible review of RA 10575 is not included the recently drafted Implementing Rules and Regulations on the GCTA law.

The inter-agency committed has just completed review of guidelines, and submitted a draft IRR of Republic Act 10592. Perete said Friday that the committee has submitted its report to the Secretaries of Justice and Interior and Local Government.

Perete said that the committee will also seek the Guevarra and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año’s approval for an extension of their mandate to also “review and recommend revisions to the Uniform Manual and Guidelines” for the implementation of RA 10592.

Reports of early release of convicted murderer-rapist Antonio Sanchez through the GCTA prompted the review of the IRR.

The Congress meanwhile is conducting its separate legislative inquiry into the GCTA law and the corruption at the BuCor.

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