P1-million bounty dangled for freed convicts
The Philippine National Police reported yesterday that 356 of the convicts who surrendered to the PNP were not included in the list of heinous crime convicts.

P1-million bounty dangled for freed convicts

Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - September 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — With just 487 of the nearly 2,000 convicts freed on good conduct returning to government custody as of yesterday, President Duterte has offered a P1-million bounty for each of those still free once the Sept. 19 deadline lapses.

The Philippine National Police reported yesterday that 356 of the convicts who surrendered to the PNP were not included in the list of heinous crime convicts.

Of the 487 convicts who had surrendered, only 131 were included in the list provided by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) that were granted freedom under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law.

The names of 356 other convicts, on the other hand, are not in the list.

The BuCor said a total of 1,914 convicted rapists, murderers and drug criminals were allowed to walk free under the GCTA.

PNP spokesperson Lt. Col. Kimberly Molitas said those not in the BuCor’s list were convicted of lesser offenses.

National Capital Region Police Office director Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said convicts not included in the list are still turned over to the BuCor.

“If they surrender, we will turn them over to the BuCor,” he said.

A total of 298 convicts who surrendered to various police units nationwide were turned over BuCor, officials said.

With just two days before the deadline, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año directed local officials to ask heinous crime convicts in their respective areas who were released due to the GCTA law to surrender.

“We ask the local government officials and barangay captains to look at the list and see if any of them are living under their jurisdiction. If there is, then it is their obligation to encourage these persons to voluntarily surrender to the PNP,” he said.

Año said a total of 612 convicts have surrendered to the PNP and BuCor as of Monday.

The Department of Justice (DOJ), on the other hand, said a total of 692 have surrendered and been turned over to the custody of the BuCor.

The 692 make up about 36 percent of the total number of 1,914 prisoners convicted of heinous crimes.

On Sept. 4, President Duterte ordered the released prisoners to surrender and register with the BuCor within 15 days or they would be considered fugitives. They have only until tomorrow to turn themselves in.

Duterte voided the release orders following reports of irregularities and corruption in the computation of prison sentences under the GCTA law.

The PNP is now preparing its elite Special Action Force commandos to go after those who fail to surrender by Thursday.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also said the government would start making warrantless arrests after Thursday.

“You have not completed your sentence so there is reason, legal basis to have you arrested because that is a continuing offense. Each minute, each hour, each day that you refuse to turn yourself in is a continuing commission of an offense and for that reason law enforcement agencies may arrest you even without a warrant,” Guevarra said.

He said the DOJ would welcome those who will challenge the arrest before the courts.

“You may go to court and ask for any relief you wish to obtain from the court but for now that is how we intend to (do it) and the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) through the PNP is ready to do so after the 19th (of September),” Guevarra said.

“The point (is) you have to go back and serve the sentence. If you want to challenge that in court then let the court decide on it,” he said.

Schools of thought

One of the authors of the GCTA law, former senator and now Sorsogon Gov. Francis Escudero, said the convicts who have surrendered could question their arrest and recommitment before the Supreme Court.

He said that most likely, they would walk free again.

“The law is very clear: once good conduct time allowance (GCTA) is granted, it cannot be revoked,” Escudero told ANC.

Escudero was one of the authors of Republic Act No. 10592 or the GCTA law, which then president Benigno Aquino III signed on May 29, 2013.

Escudero expressed doubt on whether the convicts, having been released due to good conduct time credits, could be jailed again.

The former senator said he watched the President when he issued his surrender order on national television.

“He is a lawyer, so he was careful in choosing his language. He ordered them to report to the authorities and cooperate in the investigation on alleged irregularities in the grant of GCTA,” Escudero said. – With Christina Mendez, Evelyn Macairan, Jess Diaz, Delon Porcalla 

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