Malacañang on Wednesday asked the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to keep its hands off the probe on the Bureau of Corrections over the release of convicts under the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law.
This came after Ombudsman Samuel Martires asked the PACC to stop its investigation to avoid any conflicting findings.
“It should desist from pursuing the investigation because the Ombudsman has taken over it,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told CNN Philippines in an interview.
He said the Chief Executive does not have to direct the PACC, which is under the Office of the President, to stop its probe.
“I think PACC knows it. When the Ombudsman takes over, all agencies will have to defer to the Ombudsman, because that is the constitutional body precisely tasked to investigate [wrongdoing in government],” Panelo said.
The Ombudsman said it would look into possible corruption in the application of the GCTA Law after a public furor over the near release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez.
The Senate is also conducting hearings on the supposed release on good behavior of prisoners convicted of heinous crimes.
Data from the BuCor showed that 1,914 prisoners convicted of heinous crimes have been granted early release since 2014, a year after the amendment of the GCTA law.
President Rodrigo Duterte gave them 15 days to turn themselves in or else they will be treated as “fugitives.
It was recently revealed in the Senate that influential convicts can feign illness and cough as much as P2 million to temporarily evade prison life in the New Bilibid Prison Hospital.
A witness also recently surfaced in to testify that GCTA “for sale scheme” exists in the national penitentiary.
Former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said the Ombudsman should not blame him over the release of these prisoners.
“The amendment of RA 10595 provides for credit points on outstanding or exemplary actions. Recidivists or heinous crime convicts have nothing to do with it,” he said in an interview on the ANC news channel.
“The law is only that simple. Its implementing rules and regulations are anchored on the law. No more no less. Why target us [who drafted the IRRs]? Why not target those [Bureau of Corrections] officials who have approved the release of those criminals? Why not blame them who have not followed their operations manual? Where are the minutes of the proceedings when they approved the release of those criminals?” he asked.
In his Sept. 6 separate letters to Roxas and detained Senator Leila de Lima, the Ombudsman asked them to clarify the IRRs that they drafted for the early release of inmates based on their good behavior.
“As I said, the IRRs cannot exceed the law. It must be within the law. Why is politics like this now? They [incumbent officials] have been sitting for three years. Am I the one sitting? Am I the one who released those criminals?” he asked.
BuCor officials, not he, have a lot of explaining to do before the Ombudsman, he said.
“Why investigate me?” he said.
“The law is for those who have not yet been convicted. Isn’t it the issue here is about the release of [rapist and murderer Antonio] Sanchez and the convicts of the Chiong [sisters rape and murder]? Who are they? Aren’t they convicts? Then, they must not be classified as detainees under the law,” Roxas said.
“Wasn’t Sanchez found to possess shabu [while under detention]? How come Sanchez was covered under the [GCTA] program?” he asked.
He said the GCTA can only be applied on detainees who have been charged but have not yet been convicted or are waiting for conviction or acquittal, “and not on inmates who have already been convicted.”
De Lima said the Ombudsman’s letter was a “set up” for her and Roxas to take the fall for the “Sanchez-Faeldon” scandal, referring to sacked BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon.
“The letter says that the Office of the Ombudsman has ‘opened a fact-finding investigation on alleged irregularities in the implementation of’ the GCTA Law. Am I to be treated here as a resource person, a respondent, or a probable respondent?” she said in a statement.
The Ombudsman, meanwhile, confirmed during plenary budget deliberations at the House of Representatives that Senator Ronald dela Rosa is being investigated by the anti-graft body along with Faeldon over the GCTA controversy.
“As mentioned, all present and past [BuCor chiefs] are now under investigation,” said Zamboanga del Norte Romeo Jalosjos Jr., the House member assigned to defend the budget of the Office of the Ombudsman.
Earlier, Martires said the anti-graft body’s investigation will not spare anyone.
Dela Rosa served as director general of BuCor from May to October 2018 then resigned to run for the Senate.
Dela Rosa earlier clarified that only one illegal drugs convict was released out of 120 convicts who benefitted from GCTA Law under his tenure as BuCor chief.
In related developments:
• Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said the review by a joint committee of the Justice and Interior departments of the implementing rules and regulations of the GCTA law is almost complete, and that the panel would beat its Sept. 12 deadline set by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
• Senator Christopher Go said he wanted a killer to lead the BuCor because of all the corruption besetting the agency. “He should be a killer. Tne person who will run BuCor should be a killer. I have a person in mind. Former military or former police – as long as he is a killer,” Go said.
• Senate President Vicente Sotto III said they would present four more witnesses at Senate hearings on the GCTA Law, including inmates and prison personnel, to testify on the anomalies uncovered in the penal system.
• Senator Richard Gordon directed the National Bureau of Investigation to retrieve the messages deleted and call logs from the phones submitted by Sr. Insp. Maria Belinda “Mabel” Bansil
and Sgt. Veronica “Boday” Buno to his committees during the hearings, and accused the BuCor personnel of lying.
• The Department of Justice said a foreign national freed on good conduct was deported before President Duterte issued an order for the convicts to surrender.