The Senate Blue Ribbon has issued a subpoena to Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon to compel his attendance at hearings that begin Sept. 2 on the early release program that has freed thousands of inmates, including almost 2,000 convicts guilty of murder, rape and drug trafficking.
The committee had initially sent a mere invitation to Faeldon but issued a subpoena on news that the BuCor chief planned to send his lawyer in his place.
On Sunday, committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon said he would defer the hearing if Faeldon did not show up for the first day of hearings on the Good Conduct Time Allowance used to reduce prison sentences.
When Faeldon was still Customs chief, the Senate detained him for repeatedly refusing to attend a Blue Ribbon investigation into massive corruption at the bureau. Faeldon was slapped with contempt after he ignored several subpoenas.
In the wake of a scandal that saw billions of pesos worth of shabu smuggled through Customs inspectors, President Rodrigo Duterte sacked Faeldon only to reappoint him as chief of BuCor.
Opposition senators urged the President to fire Faeldon.
In an interview over radio dzBB, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon noted that Faeldon has been hounded by controversy wherever he goes.
During his stint as Customs chief, P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China slipped through the ports as the bribery or “tara” system worsened.
In a privilege speech in 2017, Senator Panfilo Lacson accused Faeldon of receiving a P100,000 “welcome gift” when he became Customs chief.
“Perhaps, it’s about time to replace Faeldon,” said Drilon, noting that the GCTA mess showed he was negligent and incompetent.
He also said Faeldon failed to pass his early release decisions through Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for review, even though the law requires him to do so when it involves those convicted of heinous crimes.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said Faeldon, undeserving of the people’s trust, should be removed from public office and charged with the appropriate administrative and criminal cases.
“After repeatedly denying any involvement in the impending release of convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez, not only was he revealed by media reports as having been involved, but his signature also appeared on an Aug. 20 order to release Sanchez,” Hontiveros said.
“The fact that he effectively coddled an unrepentant convicted rapist and murderer, turned a blind eye to Sanchez’s crimes while he is in prison and lied to the public, is a gross violation of the oath of office that all civil servants take,” Hontiveros said.
“And now Faeldon’s office allegedly released a number of Chinese drug traffickers despite the opposition of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency,” she said.
Hontiveros said she had a list of inmates—pastors, teachers and prison counselors—more deserving of early release.
“Why were they bypassed for a man who smuggled drugs inside a Blessed [Virgin] Mary statue? Bakit nauna pa si Mayor (Why did the former mayor go first)?’’ she asked.
She said the biggest casualty of “Faeldon’s gross incompetence and abuse of authority as BuCor chief” was Republic Act 10592, which increases the GCTA that can be deducted from an inmate’s total prison term.
The measure is actually a good law consistent with the principles of restorative justice, Hontiveros said, but the attempted release of Sanchez and the freeing of several Chinese drug traffickers cast doubt on the law, placing in limbo the opportunity of more deserving inmates who had made a great effort to repent.
Senator Leila de Lima said that while President ceaselessly rants about corruption in government, he is the appointing authority.
She said Faeldon is just one of several Duterte appointees who are seemingly untouchable despite “more than a whiff of corruption” associated with them.
“Why can’t Mr. Duterte get rid of these incorrigible subalterns of his? Are they that indispensable? For what ends? What do they have on him?” she said.
Hontiveros added that the President should stop recycling questionable appointees from one department to another.
“The courtroom, where he should stand accused of obstructing justice and betraying the public interest, should be the last stop for the overly recycled and department-hopping Faeldon,” she said.
Also on Sunday, the President’s daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte of Davao City said the Palace should make Faeldon explain the controversial release of nearly 2,000 inmates convicted of heinous crimes.
The Office of the President, she said, can exercise its power to review the releases if it finds they have no basis in law.
“I think the OP should ask him to explain and then exercise the power to review. Thereafter, they can fire or ask him to resign if they think he had no basis in law for all the releases made,” she said. With PNA