Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said by Sept. 30 the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) is expected to come out with the cleaned up list of convicts convicted of heinous crimes and freed based on GCTA.
Edd Gumban/File
DOJ expects GCTA list cleaned up by month’s end
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - September 27, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) will resume tracking down heinous crime convicts prematurely released through the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law who failed to surrender and comply with a presidential order, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said yesterday.

Guevarra said by Sept. 30 the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) is expected to come out with the cleaned up list of convicts convicted of heinous crimes and freed based on GCTA. 

“Our target is by the end of September, although we could not ascertain if we would be able to have a complete list by then, but by Sept. 30 for sure we would already release a list that we could give the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and PNP so they could start hunting them,” said Guevarra.

When asked if Oct. 1 marks the start of the hunting season, Guevarra replied, “Oh yes, definitely, because by Sept. 30 we will be coming up with that cleaned up list so those who were convicted of heinous crimes who are still out there, the military and the police would start looking for them.”

The original date for the start of operations was last Sept. 19 but the Department of Justice (DOJ) asked the DILG to suspend the operations because of errors in the list of 1,914 convicts submitted by the BuCor.

Among the errors spotted were some 40 convicts released but who had not availed themselves of the GCTA.

The 40 convicts were earlier released after they were pardoned or granted executive clemency, paroled or acquitted in court. 

Authorities were also surprised that the number of surrenderers exceeded the 1,914 heinous crime convicts in the list. As of last Monday, 2,221 convicts have surrendered.

He admitted that there were flaws in the record-keeping of BuCor.

In a related development, Guevarra also said they released 25 non-GCTA convicts who had surrendered. 

“They did not want to leave until they get a certification (stating they have been cleared) so they would no longer be harassed and would no longer be arrested by the police,” he added. 

Guevarra explained they would continue to release more convicts in the coming days, but asked for understanding since the processing may be slow because they are still trying to fix the system.  

In fact, in order to speed up the review of prison records, he even assigned DOJ prosecutors to assist in the review process since 30 BuCor officials were earlier ordered suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman.

During DOJ’s 122nd anniversary celebration yesterday, Guevarra told the officials and employees that the recent controversies surrounding BuCor started with reports that rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez, former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, was preparing for his release after he availed himself of the GCTA for alleged good behavior.

Sanchez and several cohorts were convicted and sentenced with seven life terms each for the rape-slay of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Mary Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend Allan Gomez in 1993.

“I just came to tell you during the past several weeks, the DOJ as an institution could have been damaged severely, if not ruined because of what happened,” said Guevarra. 

The events during the past weeks were something like a “major shock in the system” because DOJ is the agency that exercises supervision over BuCor.

He said they were “caught by surprise because we were unaware that things like this were happening inside the BuCor, even before the incident with mayor Sanchez. I think the... so many had already been released prior to him, except that because you got information that he was about to be released that it became sensational news.”

He admitted that they were not aware of the extent of the problem in the bureau since no one was complaining because when the BuCor Law took effect in 2013, the DOJ was relegated to general administrative supervision – unless there was a problem, they do not meddle with BuCor’s operations. 

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