Lawmakers want justice to rein in BuCor officers

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Saturday the Department of Justice must have “direct control and supervision” over the Bureau of Corrections, which supervises the national penitentiary and other prisons, to curb corruption and illegal activities there.

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Drilon, a former secretary of justice, said Republic Act 10575 or The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013 must be amended because the agency had become “too powerful” and its officials “are to be blamed for the corrupt practices in the bureau.”

Earlier, the House of Representatives strongly expressed a desire to have its own inquiry into the controversies surrounding the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law and the early release of convicts of heinous crimes.

Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles said the investigation would help lawmakers amend the GCTA Law to remove confusion and ambiguity and to establish standards for “good conduct” that would be used to shorten prison terms.

Lawmakers, too, would need to address mismatching provisions in the Revised Penal Code and the GCTA and provide a clear-cut definition of what constitutes a heinous crime.

Nograles said people found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of heinous crimes must not be entitled to early release under the law.

Statistics from the Philippine National Police suggested Saturday some 391 released convicts under the GCTA had surrendered to various police stations in the country.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier directed those who had been released under the GCTA Law to report to the nearest police stations 15 days—this means today, Sept. 15—from the presidential order, or they would face warrantless arrest.

Drilon told dwIZ, heard nationwide, “It is time to give more teeth to the Department of Justice,” adding “there are a number of critical agencies over which the department has limited to zero control.”

Under the law, the DOJ’s control over the BuCor is limited to administrative supervision.

“The justice secretary is left in the dark because he has no direct control and supervision of the bureau,” he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier said some 2,000 drug lords and convicted rapists were released even while the GCTA policy, which could reduce penalties for prisoners on account of good conduct, did not cover heinous crimes.

Nograles suggested defining a heinous crime in the death penalty law as a “grievous, odious, hateful offense of such monstrosity as to spark public outrage”—which would cover murder, rape, kidnapping, and dangerous drugs.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice said the proposed new implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 10592 or the GCTA Law would be finished and adopted next week.

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said on Friday that the Joint Review Committee that included members from the DOJ and the Department of the Interior and Local Government has submitted the draft IRR to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for review.

“Both [Guevarra and DILG Secretary Eduardo Año] will now review the draft IRR and decide on its promulgation,” Perete said.

The panel asked for an extension of its mandate to review and recommend revisions to the Uniform Manual and Guidelines for the implementation of RA No. 10592.

Guevarra vowed to propose several reform measures, including amendments to Republic Act 10575 to give the DOJ tighter control over BuCor.

“I am beginning to think that the law itself that supposedly strengthened the BuCor, and consequently diminished DOJ control over it, may have to be reviewed,” Guevarra said in a text message.

Under RA 10575, the BuCor became a line agency of the DOJ, not a constituent bureau, giving the department only administrative supervision, not control, over the agency.

Guevarra’s proposal came after BuCor officials used RA 10575 to legally justify their release of almost 2,000 inmates who were convicted of heinous crimes.

“Some form of control over BuCor may be more appropriate,” Guevarra said.

Aside from the “GCTA for sale” racket, various witnesses told Thursday’s Senate hearing about different money-making schemes involving prison officials.

Among these are the entry of prostitutes for high-profile inmates at the New Bilibid Prison and the “hospital pass for sale” scheme, where Bilibid hospital officials are bribed by inmates who fake their illnesses so they can later be confined at a medical facility outside the prison.

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Topics: Franklin Drilon , Department of Justice , Bureau of Corrections , The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013 , Good Conduct Time Allowance Law
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