DOJ going through records of freed convicts
Members of a police tracker team look at photos and info on freed convicts projected on a screen during a recent briefing at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Miguel de Guzman
DOJ going through records of freed convicts
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - September 22, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) is now reviewing the records of at least 2,139 former convicts who were granted freedom under the good behavior law.

DOJ spokesman Markk Perete said the review will remove from the list former convicts who have been pardoned, paroled, granted presidential clemency or convicted of lesser offenses.

Perete though declined to give a timeline, but stressed the new list will be provided by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to the Philippine National Police (PNP) as basis to recommit the other former prisoners.

Perete said the process might take some time, as they still have to verify the inmates’ prison records and review the decisions of the courts pertaining to their cases to determine if their convictions fall under heinous crime.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that the crime they committed may be heinous, and that became the basis for us to request first the records from the BuCor so that we could ascertain with finality who among the individuals in the residual list are in fact convicted of heinous crimes,” he added.

For an instance, not all inmates convicted of murder can be considered to have committed a heinous crime, which made it difficult to distinguish whether an inmate should be re-arrested until a clean list is made, Perete said.

Perete pointed out the case of Rolito Go, who was convicted for murder in the killing of student Eldon Maguan in a road rage incident in 1991.

Go was granted freedom by the Supreme Court under the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law in December 2016.

The DOJ and the BuCor encountered confusion on Friday after some of the inmates who are not supposed to be included in the list of erroneously freed convicts were among those who have surrendered following the 15-day deadline set by President Duterte.

The DOJ said 2,139 former inmates surrendered on Thursday, with 1,903 proceeding to the BuCor while 236 surrendered to the police.

The DOJ said 130 more surrendered as of 10 a.m. yesterday.

Perete said at least 41 former inmates will be removed from the BuCor’s list and will be freed immediately.

The BuCor said a total of 1,914 inmates were granted freedom under the GCTA law since 2014.

In the list, however, are hundreds of convicted rapists, murderers and drug criminals, which officials said is a clear violation of the GCTA that excludes those who are convicted of heinous crimes.

More than 2,000 ex-felons showed up by last Thursday’s deadline but some of them were not in the list since they were convicted of lesser offenses, given pardon or under parole, while some did not avail of the benefits under the GCTA law.

Perete said they found out some errors in the BuCor list that needs to be verified and validated.

This prompted Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to request the BuCor and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to hold the arrest of the former felons who are still at large until after a new list is made.

Manhunt continues

Perete clarified the DOJ has just requested the PNP through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) if it could suspend the recommitment of the inmates pending the cleansing of the BuCor’s list.

He said the final decision on whether to suspend the operations rests with President Duterte.

Duterte had set a Sept. 19 deadline for the ex-convicts to return to jail or face the consequences, and put a P1-million price on their heads.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año ordered the PNP to continue, saying only the President will decide to suspend the recommitment operations against the former convicts.

“The directive of SILG Año to the PNP is this: continue with operations until we receive an order from the President suspending the manhunt,” DILG spokesman Jonathan Malaya said.

“While we respect the request of Secretary Guevarra and understand the situation, we await the directive of Malacañang on the matter,” he added.

The PNP earlier said it ordered the suspension pending receipt of the clean list from the BuCor.

National Capital Region Police Office director Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said they would continue to monitor the movements of some 164 former felons living in Metro Manila.

Eleazar made it clear that the President’s order to recommit the former prisoners is still in effect since the 15-day deadline for them to surrender lapsed last Thursday.

Elsewhere, the police continue tracking down the former inmates in Cagayan in the north, down to Negros Occidental. – With Romina Cabrera, Gilbert Bayoran, Raymund Catindig

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