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Ex-DOJ chief Aguirre invited to BuCor probe

/ 04:20 AM September 15, 2019
Ex-DOJ chief Aguirre invited to BuCor probe

Vitaliano Aguirre II

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Richard Gordon will invite former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to the Senate justice committee’s next hearing on the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law to ask him about the implementation of a department order that required his approval before the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) could free heinous crime convicts.

Department Order No. 953 was issued in November 2015 by then Justice Secretary Benjamin Caguioa.

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Gordon said that it was possible he would also invite detained Sen. Leila de Lima to the hearing, though he saw no reason to do so yet.

De Lima was Caguioa’s predecessor and was among those who crafted the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for Republic Act No. 10592, which expanded the scope of the GCTA.

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Gordon also plans to invite to the hearing Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Benjamin Magalong to testify on the raids in the New Bilibid Prison.

Magalong had previously complained that the CIDG was left out of the raid in the national penitentiary conducted by De Lima.

DO 953 not followed

In a radio interview, Gordon said that he would ask Aguirre why he allegedly did not follow DO 953.

“Now, we will call him. There is already an order for that, Mr. Aguirre, why did you not follow that? Do you agree or disagree with that, that you cannot release a prisoner, if you’re the [BuCor] and want to release a life imprisonment inmate, you have a responsibility, it has to have the approval of the secretary of justice,” Gordon said over dwIZ.

DO 953 also required the BuCor to furnish the Department of Justice (DOJ) with the list of inmates who would be freed on the authority of the bureau’s director alone, one month before the scheduled release.

The order further stated that in all cases, the BuCor director should issue a certification on the computation of the credits granted to an inmate.

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Gordon said that he wanted to know why Caguioa was able to see the need for the DOJ approval and for the certification, but Aguirre and De Lima apparently did not.

As for De Lima, he said that he would first want the entire picture to be made clear before deciding on whether to call her or not.

But he said he wondered why De Lima, in crafting the IRR for the GCTA law, agreed to reduce the DOJ secretary’s power over the release of inmates and to give most of these to the BuCor chief.

Unfair to blame De Lima

But Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, speaking over dwIZ, said that it was unfair to blame De Lima and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas for the IRR since the GCTA law itself was vague.

De Lima exercised her best judgment in interpreting the law, Drilon said.

The IRR had been blamed for the confusion on whether heinous crime convicts could be granted good conduct time allowance.

The DOJ has also proposed revisions to the IRR to give it more power over the BuCor.

“It was clear that the problem was in the implementation of the law,” Drilon said over dwIZ.

The law actually does not exclude heinous crime convicts from the GCTA, he said. But the law was being interpreted differently now, he added.

Gordon said that the three BuCor officials held in contempt last Thursday would remain detained in the Senate until the next hearing.

What will happen to them next will depend on what they would say, he said.

Cited for contempt were BuCor legal chief Fredric Santos, documents section chief Ramoncito Roque and medical officer Ursicio Cenas.

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TAGS: Bureau of Corrections, released heinous crime convicts, Richard Gordon, Senate hearing, Vitaliano Aguirre II
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