MANILA — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Friday he would tap an officer-in-charge for the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and direct him to suspend officials tagged in the allegedly corruption-tainted release of prisoners based on the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this week fired BuCor Director General Nicanor Faeldon after he approved the release of several heinous crime convicts due to their GCTA credits.
"Pagdating ko sa opisina ay kaagad-agad kong ide-designate ang officer-in-charge ng Bureau of Corrections," Guevarra told radio DZMM.
(I will immediately designate an officer-in-charge when I get to the office.)
"Ang una kong idi-discuss dito sa magiging OIC ay ang immediately pag-suspend muna pansamantala nitong sa mga taong sinasabing may kinalaman sa bayaran ng GCTA at temporarily pag-lock up ng lahat ng mga dokumentong may kinalaman sa GCTA processing," he added.
(The first thing I will discuss with the OIC is to immediately suspend the personnel allegedly involved in the exchange of money for GCTA credits and temporarily lock up all documents related to the GCTA processing.)
The DOJ lacks "direct control" over BuCor, its attached agency, under a 2013 law, but can review and modify the bureau's "quasi-judicial and regulatory functions" like the GCTA implementation, Justice Undersecretary and Spokesperson Markk Perete earlier said.
A Senate witness, Yolanda Camelo, told lawmakers on Thursday that she paid P50,000 to several BuCor officials in exchange for the early release of her husband, an inmate at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa.
Faeldon has denied any knowledge of the supposed "GCTA for sale" scheme.
Guevarra is required by law to recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte a replacement for Faeldon.
"Considering na masyado nang long-established iyang mga kalakarang d'yan sa Bureau of Corrections, we may have to inject first blood into the Bureau of Corrections," said Guevarra.
(Considering that such transactions have been long-established there at the Bureau of Corrections, we may have to inject first blood into the Bureau of Corrections.)
Prisoners, he said, should not lose hope of getting early freedom under GCTA if they are not covered by its 4 exceptions, including heinous crime convicts, recidivists, habitual delinquents and escapees.
"Huwag silang mawawalan ng pag-asa kasi maganda ang layunin ng batas na ito: na ang ating mga inmates ay makapagbagong-buhay, maiayos ang kanilang mga sarili," he said.
"Patuloy ang pag-evaluate sa kanilang conduct, it's just really screening out iyong mga hindi dapat makasama sa additional benefits ng GCTA law," he added.
(They should not lose hope because the goal of this is good: for our inmates to change their lives and fix themselves. We will continue evaluating their conduct, it's just really screening out those who should not be included in the additional benefits of the GCTA law.)
The GCTA triggered scrutiny following reports that it could benefit Antonio Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna convicted in 1995 for the rape-slay of college student Eileen Sarmenta and killing of her companion Allan Gomez.
Faeldon told lawmakers on Tuesday that he signed an August memorandum recommending Sanchez's release, which he said he stopped "because I believe he is not entitled."
Faeldon said he also signed last month release orders for 3 men convicted in the rape-slay of Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in 1997.