Why some freed inmates prefer to stay in jail
MANILA, Philippines – Jails are places dreaded by most people simply because they strip their freedom and rights; therefore, it is unusual for individuals, especially those who just escaped or left prison, to yearn for a return to the penitentiary.
However, for prisoners freed through the good conduct time allowance (GCTA), the prison might be a better place for them to stay right now.
In a press conference on Friday, Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Markk Perete admitted that a number of individuals – who might not be required to surrender – turned themselves in to authorities.
“According to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), those who surrendered last night from 11 o’clock onwards, some, after verification, they are excluded from the original list. They were asked to leave the premises,” Perete told reporters at DOJ’s office in Manila.
“However, they refused to do so because they were asking for a certification from the BuCor that they will no longer be subject of the arrests. Pending the issuance of that certification they insisted that they remain inside the BuCor, which is, understandable,” he noted.
President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the freed heinous crime convicts to surrender in 15 days — which ended on Thursday, September 19. After the deadline, Duterte also ordered the police to kill GCTA-freed convicts who would resist arrest.
However, DOJ recently admitted that BuCor’s list contained errors. On the original list, it said that out of the 22,049 inmates freed after Republic Act No. 10592 took effect, 1,914 committed heinous crimes.
Some of those inmates, Perete said earlier, were not really convicted of heinous crimes, but were only sentenced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.
The count of prisoners freed under GCTA was placed at 1,914. But the number of inmates who yielded surprisingly swelled. As of 5:00 a.m. of Friday, the total number of inmates who turned themselves in to authorities was at 2,009.
Critics of the administration raised concerns about possible re-arrest without court orders, and Duterte’s call on police to shoot freed prisoners who resist arrest. However, Perete said they were verifying who among the 1,914 should really be re-arrested by reviewing each case.
On the other hand, they are also preparing the issuance of certifications that would prove a former inmate should not be arrested again.
“These are the operational and logistical challenges that we are facing. We are verifying the list, we are trying to come up with a cleaned-up list,” Perete noted.
“At the same time we have to present and prepare the necessary documentation which would somehow legally protect those who have turned themselves in, that once they are already outside, they would not be subjected to a re-arrest,” he explained.
The GCTA mess triggered a public backlash after it was revealed that ex-BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon signed the release orders of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted of raping and killing student Eileen Sarmenta. Faeldon was eventually sacked by Duterte, who ordered the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the irregularities.
The consideration of GCTA was brought by the enactment of Republic Act No. 10592, which amended Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code. In the law, heinous crime convicts were not qualified for GCTA, but current administration officials said a lapse in the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) paved the way for such convicts to be released.
They are blaming Senator Leila de Lima and former Senator Mar Roxas II — then interior and justice secretaries — for the mess. Both were asked by Ombudsman Samuel Martires to explain the alleged omission, but De Lima said the question should be directed to DOJ.
Roxas, on the other hand, said there was no omission, as heinous crime convicts were still placed albeit in Rule IV, Section 6 of R.A. 10592’s IRR./ac