Two of three convicts in the Chiong sisters rape-slay case, released on the strength of the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance Law, have surrendered, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Saturday.
Guevarra identified the two as Ariel Balansag and Alberto Caño, now under the custody of the Bureau of Corrections authorities, three days after President Rodrigo Duterte, on nationwide television, ordered those freed under the application of GCTA to surrender in 15 days or be treated as fugitives.
Thelma Chiong, mother of the Chiong sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline, said on Saturday in a separate Balitanghali Weekend report, also beamed nationwide, she was happy upon hearing of the surrender of Balansag and Caño but appealed to the third convict Josman Aznar to surrender as well.
In related developments:
• A convicted rapist released in March this year from Leyte Regional Prison, through the GCTA Law, turned himself into the police in Villaba, Leyte on Friday, police authorities said.
Ireneo Busano, 56, of Balite village, Villaba town, voluntarily surrendered at the police station after Duterte told 1,914 GCTA recipients convicted of heinous crimes to yield to authorities.
The LRP in Abuyog, Leyte managed by the Bureau of Corrections, released Busano on March 22, 2019.
Busano was convicted of rape on March 23, 2004, before the Regional Trial Court Branch 17 in Palompon, Leyte.
The court sentenced him to reclusion perpetua or a prison term of 20 to 40 years.
He was freed based on the GCTA Law or Republic Act 10592, as approved by the Department of Justice in a memorandum dated March 12, 2019, which was issued by the Bureau of Corrections Director General Nicanor Faeldon.
LRP officer-in-charge Chief Insp. Pedro Padilla signed Busano’s Certificate of Discharge on March 18, 2019.
The police turned over Busano to LRP hours after his surrender.
The LRP in Abuyog, Leyte has an inmate capacity of 500. It follows the same agricultural format as the main correctional program, in addition to some rehabilitation activities.
The prison houses convicted offenders from Eastern Visayas and from the New Bilibid Prison.
• In Manila, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Saturday said the President had the power to order the transfer of convicts to another facility, amid questions surrounding his directive to move 10 high-profile convicts from the national penitentiary to a Philippine Marines facility.
“The President, as Chief Executive, has control and supervision over all offices and agencies under the Executive department,” he said.
Duterte on Friday admitted during a speech in Naga City, Cebu that he ordered the transfer of the 10 convicts from the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City to a detention facility of the Philippine Marines in Taguig City out of fear that detained Senator Leila de Lima’s underlings might kill them.
Seven of the transferred convicts had testified in the drug cases against De Lima, accusing the senator of involvement in the Bilibid drug trade during her time as justice chief.
They were moved on June 12 to the Marines Barracks Rudiardo Brown in Fort Bonifacio.
Guevarra earlier said the 10 were moved as they were under threat.
He said there would be “nothing irregular” with the transfer if there was a court order authorizing it but added he was not aware if such approval was sought.
But he clarified that if the transfer of convicts from the New Bilibid Prison was to an extension facility of the BuCor, no court order was needed.
“If the transfer is to a facility not controlled by the BuCor, the court that committed the PDL (persons deprived of liberty) to the original penitentiary should at least be notified or its approval secured,” he said in a text message.
“But if the transfer is made to a BuCor extension facility, such as a military camp by agreement, no court approval is required as long as custody and control remain with the BuCor,” he added.
• The Palace denied accusing the Aquino administration over the alleged misapplication of the GCTA law, saying they were just stating facts for persons deprived of liberty.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the facts were clear.
“ It was then Justice secretary Leila de Lima and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas who jointly issued the implementing rules and regulations of the GCTA under the Republic Act 10592.”
He said Rule IV, Section 3 of the IRR “did not include PDLs who were charged (with) or convicted of heinous crimes.”
Panelo also assured the public that those involved in corruption or incompetence in implementing the GCTA law would be prosecuted.
“We will be fair and impartial as we will enforce the law not just against the officials who served the current administration but also against those who served during the previous one,” he said.
The Palace spokesman made the statement after de Lima, one of the fiercest critics of Duterte, slammed the Duterte administration for the supposed lapses in the implementation of the GCTA Law.
Panelo said that because of the GCTA Law which the previous administration passed, the public was blaming the officials of the Duterte administration for the GCTA fiasco.
He said De Lima should “look in the mirror and ask herself who (was) to blame for the same.”
Panelo said: “We reiterate that the sudden increase in number of those purported to be eligible to avail of the benefits of GCTA under this administration was due to the recent ruling by the Supreme Court, a separate and independent branch of the government, which held that RA 10592 should be applied retroactively.
“The practice, however, of granting the benefits of GCTA to persons charged with heinous crimes started way back when the IRR was issued.”