Railway for Mindanao/Convicts stay in cells
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - September 3, 2019 - 12:00am

Saeed Daof, a Mindanao peace and development advocate for many years, is respectfully calling the attention of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to support  the request of Deputy Speaker and Basilan Congressman Mujiv Hataman for a reasonable and equitable allocation for railway development in Mindanao.

As observed, President Duterte approved a P4-trillion budget for Year 2020. Of this amount, P147 billion or 3.7 percent is allocated for the budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr). Consequently, DOTr allocated P106 billion or 72 percent of its budget for national railway development and operation.

 Unfortunately, according to Deputy Speaker Hataman, only P96 million or less than one percent of the P106 billion budget is being allocated for railway development in Mindanao. 

I must say that is a measly amount, considering how railway development is essential to the economic and social progress of Mindanao. 

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The release of former mayor Antonio Sanchez of Calauan, Laguna and 1,913 others serving life sentences for heinous crimes is one of the many unsettling developments in our midst today. It’s such a grave concern – the freeing of inmates convicted for committing heinous crimes. Sanchez’s 1995 conviction of reclusion perpetua for seven terms, was due to the persevering efforts of the media – a crowning glory of unfettered press freedom. And now the guy who had raped a student at the University of the Philippines-Los Banos and caused her slaying along with her male friend, is to be set free – on the supposed basis of Good Conduct Time Allowance Law. Good conduct? When in his cell had been found satches of shabu and amenities not allowed other prisoners? It turns out several drug lords had been released since 2014, again, on the basis of the GCTAL. 

The release had been made under the supervision of Bureau of Corrections Director General Nicanor Faeldon, an appointee of President Duterte who had previously failed the Philippine Military Academy course, had questionable performance as head of the Bureau of Customs, then was transferred to head the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

A ray of hope piercing through citizens’ cloud of dissatisfaction is provided by the announcement Sept. 1st that the President will hold accountable officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) who were involved in the release of the prisoners convicted of heinous crimes due to the GCTM. 

At a Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon yesterday, strongly questioning Faeldon’s action was Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Drilon earlier declared the release of the prisoners as “invalid because it did not have the approval of the Secretary of Justice.” The release requires prior approval by the secretary of justice in accordance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) order issued by then acting secretary and now Supreme Court Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, Drilon said. 

Drilon said under Republic Act 10592 that allows deductions from sentences of prisoners on the basis of good behavior, one year of imprisonment, a fine of P100,000 and perpetual disqualification to hold office shall be imposed against any public officer or employee who violates the law.

“The law is very strict on abuses because it involves service of sentence, which is an important part of our criminal justice system. If you don’t implement it properly, you are making a mockery of our justice system,” said Drilon.

Drilon said it is possible to order the re-arrest of the over 1,900 prisoners, but asked the DOJ to look into the matter carefully.

He supports calls made by his colleagues to remove Faeldon from BuCor. Senate President Vicente Sotto III also urged Duterte to fire Faeldon and reorganize the entire bureau. Also supporting the call to fire Faeldon, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he does not understand why the President continues to place his trust on Faeldon. “I don’t know what to say. Faeldon allowed the release of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs in the BOC. Now, he allowed the release of heinous crime convicts in BuCor. Why is this person still in government?”

Data from the BuCor showed that of the 914 heinous crime convicts released, 797 were sentenced for murder, 758 for rape, 274 for robbery with violence or intimidation, 48 for drug-related offenses, 29 for parricide, five for kidnaping with illegal detention, and three for destructive action.

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I thought I’d celebrate my birthday quietly. But classmates and friends came. A big surprise were three cakes brought by messengers – from Mayor Eric Caniosa and Vice Mayor Peter Unabia’s son Congressman Christian Unabia, and businessman Bebot Villahermosa. Thank you, Sirs, and city information officer Nicole Managbanag for the good wishes. 

 Members of Gingoog Institute Class of 1956 who came were retired TRC Judge Downey Valdevilla (who brought along his wife Myrna), Susan Fernandez Rola (who brought along brother Florencio), Chita Ferrer Villanueva, Dennis Valdevilla and Wenceslao Ceballos. Boy Pascual, a neighbor, came. And so, did City kagawad and Rotary Club president Thad Lugod and wife Ivy. Rosyll Ebarle Mahinay of Buenavista, and entrepreneur Jo Yee of Butuan City came bringing gifts and happy tales. Suzette and Willy of WellGin Enterprises brought with them son Jason and bottles of red wine. Thanks, Saeed, Warto, Vee, Tenten and Jek for making my dinner an affair to remember.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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