President Rodrigo Duterte said he will offer P1-million bounty for the capture of each of heinous crime convicts—dead or alive, but better dead—if they will not surrender to the authorities.
Duterte earlier ordered 1,914 heinous crime convicts who were freed under the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law to surrender on or before Sept. 19 for a “recomputation” of their benefits under the measure.
“I will just set the timeline and then the one million prize is available to those who can capture them dead or alive. But maybe dead would be a better option,” Duterte told reporters Tuesday night, suggesting it would cost more to send them back to prison.
Two more convicts in the rape-slay of the Chiong sisters in Cebu—James Uy and Josman Aznar—surrendered Wednesday evening, Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said. The two turned themselves in at the New Bilibid Prison compound.
Under the Republic Act 10592, heinous crime convicts are excluded from having their terms shortened as a reward for good behavior in jail.
The Philippine National Police earlier reported about 600 convicts have turned themselves in so far—although the Justice department puts the figure at more than 900.
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PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said that after that deadline, the police may carry out warrantless arrests and even use force against the convicts if they resist arrest.
Duterte’s order came amid allegations of corruption in the implementation of the GCTA Law.
While the President is against releasing those convicted of heinous crimes, he ordered the Justice department to speed up the release of old and sickly inmates.
“I will set 70 years old or 75, 70. They cannot run,” he told reporters.
The Chief Executive also claimed that criminals jailed for a very long time have turned into homosexuals.
“Most of them don’t want to go because they have lovers inside the jail. If they will be freed after 30, 25 years, they won’t look for women,” he said.
“They have acquired latent homosexuality. They don’t have the desire to kiss women,” he added.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra sought to play down the President’s “dead or alive” remark.
“’Dead or alive’ should not be taken literally,” Guevarra said.
“Law enforcers are supposed to effect peaceful arrests, but they may use reasonable force if the subject of the arrest violently resists and endangers the security of the arresting officer,” he said.
The controversy over the GCTA arose after reports that convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez might be released soon sparked public outrage.
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The Justice department said 964 prisoners convicted of heinous crimes have turned themselves in on the eve of Duterte’s deadline.
On Monday, the Justice department and the Department of the Interior and Local Government issued new implementing rules and regulations for the GCTA Law, including a provision disqualifying some heinous crime convicts, recidivists, habitual delinquents and escapees from getting early release.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said two convicts released under the GCTA Law said they would surrender to him.
“I don’t know why they want to surrender to us at the Senate. They can go directly to the police,” Sotto said in Filipino. He said the released convicts may be scared—or may want to reveal something to the Senate, which is holding hearings on the GCTA Law and corruption in the Bureau of Corrections.
Meanwhile, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said at least 24,000 convicts had already been released since 2014, citing figures submitted by BuCor.
He also said two or three bureau officials would be recommended for prosecution in connection with the alleged sale of GCTA credits.
These recommendations would be in a report that would be released in two or three weeks, he added.
The charges will include bribery, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and gross negligence, Martires said.
Those under preventive suspension will not automatically be included in the charges, he said.
In a separate interview, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Senator Leila de Lima and former DILG secretary Manuel Roxas II should be barred forever from seeking public office for the alleged irregularities in the implementing rules and regulations of the GCTA law.
“They are the ones at fault since they are the ones who made it. The people who are below there are [just] being guided. They are the Cabinet members. They should [own] their mistakes,” Enrile said.
Enrile was Senate President when the GCTA was signed into law in 2013.
He said there should be no confusion in the provisions of the Republic Act 10592 or the GCTA law as Section 1 clearly states that heinous crime convicts are among those excluded from being released earlier than their prison sentence based on good conduct.The IRR of RA 10592 was signed when De Lima and Roxas were secretaries of the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Enrile said that supposed addition of heinous crime convicts as beneficiaries of the GCTA Law is “unconstitutional, non-existent, and void ab initio [from the beginning].”
“Whoever did that should answer for all of these problems,” he said.
Meanwhile, three BuCor officials detained for contempt in the Senate asked the Court of Appeals to issue a writ of habeas corpus as they challenged their detention for telling lies and withholding information.
BuCor records chief Ramoncito Roque, legal chief Fredric Anthony Santos, and Bilibid hospital medical officer Ursicio Cenas asked the Court of Appeals hear the case, declare their arrest and detention unlawful, and order their permanent release, saying the senators denied them due process.
They also assailed what they said was the indefinite period of their detention, citing a Supreme Court ruling that says persons cited in contempt by the Senate may only be detained until the termination of the legislative investigation where they were ordered confined.
Also on Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto spoke of the high cost of detention.
Based on the proposed appropriations and projected inmate population for 2020, the annual cost of housing, feeding, guarding, and transporting one Bureau of Jail Management and Penology detainee will be about P101,887. At BuCor, the cost is P91,407 per prisoner per year.
While the P70 budget for three daily meals is inhumanely low, it is still higher than the P18 per meal cost of the government feeding programs that benefit 3.7-million children.
The annual cost of the P15 daily medicine allowance is twice the national government’s per capita health spending of P2,638 for 2020.
He said the tax burden for one inmate was four times the annual price tag for sending a child to public school or college.
“But we can only decongest our jails… if the wheels of justice will turn faster, by more hands who will move it,” Recto said.
“The billions of pesos we pay for our prisons is the annual national penalty we pay for our slow justice system,” Recto said.