Drilon blames PAO for continued detention of inmates eligible for release
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon slammed Tuesday the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) over its slow filing of petitions for the release of 862 inmates, who could have already been set free.
“I am disappointed. How can the bureaucracy react in this manner when the liberties of people are on the line?” Drilon said.
“Let’s face it: this is criminal neglect. They did not mind this because it involves prisoners. That’s the truth. They did not mind it at all,” he added.
During his interpellation on the budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its attached agencies late Monday, it was revealed that around 862 inmates, who are already entitled to be released under Republic Act 10951, are still in jail.
The law, which was an amendment to the Revised Penal Code, is aimed to benefit inmates “who are mostly poor who have been convicted with inordinately long prison sentences and excessive fines for crimes which are in fact considered petty today.”
RA 10951 adjusts the amount or the value of property and damage on which a penalty is based and the fines imposed under the Revised Penal Code
According to Drilon, PAO have so far only filed 51 petitions – 39 with the Supreme Court (SC) and 12 with the regional trial courts – for the release of inmates.
Drilon also revealed that since the passage of RA 10951 in August 2017, only two prisoners have been released.
The senator lamented the situation of inmates “who are continuously incarcerated despite the passage of RA 10951” only because of PAO’s slow-paced filing of petitions to the courts.
The SC, according to Drilon, has also issued detailed guidelines on the implementation of RA 10951, which named PAO as the agency that will handle the filing of requisite petitions.
“There are 862 inmates who could have been released but are still languishing in jail because of the bureaucracy that is responding slowly. Ano ba naman yan?” he said.
“Without any conscience, they let 862 inmates suffer continued imprisonment,” he added.
At this point, Drilon said DOJ’s performance in relation to the implementation of RA 10951 will be reviewed, to which Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III vowed to participate.
“We are going to file a resolution asking for a review of the performance of the DOJ insofar as this is concerned. You are given fair warning. I will repeat, this is totally unacceptable,” Drilon said.
As this developed, PAO has committed to file early next year the necessary petitions for the release of 862 prisoners.
Drilon, nevertheless, maintained his earlier warning to hold PAO accountable if no progress is made on the release of inmates qualified under the law for discharge from jails nationwide. /kga
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