Release of heinous crimes inmates needs DOJ clearance, says Drilon

MANILA – The release of over 1,900 prisoners serving a life sentence, including convicts in the rape-slay of Chiong sisters, requires prior approval by the secretary of justice in accordance with the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s order issued by then acting secretary and now Supreme Court Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, according to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday.

“The release of these over 1,900 prisoners by virtue of the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law (GCTA) is invalid because it did not have the approval of the Secretary of Justice,” Drilon said in an interview with DZBB on Sunday.

“Any release of prisoners should be in accordance with the law and proper procedure must always be observed. The law laid down who and how GCTA is computed, what the exclusions are, and who orders the release. How could a mere technical superintendent could order the release?” Drilon added.

There are reports that a certain Maria Fe Marquez, a correctional technical superintendent signed the release forms of the convicts in the Chiong sisters rape-slay, among the 1,914 heinous crimes inmates, who have been freed since 2014.

Drilon explained that the release of prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua“ requires prior approval of the Secretary of Justice”. The department order was cited by Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra.

Drilon said the order is in accordance with the provision of Republic Act 10575, or the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013, which clearly mandates that “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.”

“Ang sinabi ko rito ay malinaw naman na kailangan ng clearance ng secretary of justice kapag ikaw ay sentenced to life imprisonment. Hindi iyan sinunod,” he added.

Drilon said BuCor officials led by its chief Nicanor Faeldon should be made to explain how the prisoners convicted of heinous crimes became eligible for an early release and why it did not secure the prior approval of the justice secretary.

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

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

The senator said that it is possible to order the re-arrest of the over 1,900 prisoners but asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to look into the matter carefully.

Drilon also supported calls made by his colleagues to remove Faeldon from BuCor.

“Siguro naman panahon na para palitan si Faeldon. Malaking controversy ito ay nagpapakita na may pagkukulang siya, lalo na sa pagpapatupad ng GCTA law at lalo na yung pagkuha ng approval ng SOJ in case of prisoners convicted of heinous crime in accordance with the DOJ department order at RA 10575,” Drilon said.

The veteran senator said that Faeldon can be cited in contempt and detained in the Senate again if he does not appear in the hearing and fails to provide justification for his absence,” he concluded.