MANILA – There is no legal basis to consider fugitive and re-arrest freed heinous crime prisoners under a law that reduces an inmate’s sentence due to good conduct, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said Sunday.
In a media forum in Manila, NUPL president Edre Olalia said a person can only be arrested if there is an order from the court through a warrant of arrest.
“There are only 3 instances wherein you can be arrested without a warrant: caught in the act; committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit [an offense] in your presence; and fugitive. Oh, hanapin niyo sa tatlo, nandu’n ba? Kung wala du’n sa tatlo, kailangan mo ng warrant,” Olalia said.
President Rodigo Duterte on September 4 ordered heinous-crime convicts who were freed under Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law to surrender to authorities in 15 days.
If the freed convicts refuse to surrender, Duterte said the government would consider them fugitives.
Olalia downplayed Duterte’s order.
“Hindi porke sinabi ni Presidente ay utos ng hari. Hindi naman tayo kaharian eh, demokrasya tayo,” he said.
The lawyer said the government should have gone to court, identified errors in the release of prisoners, and sought order to re-arrest ex-convicts.
“Ano ang pinakamalapit na asunto na puwede isampa? Evasion of service of sentence. Sa madaling sabi, tumakas, umiwas sa sintensya. Tanong, tumakas ba? Ni-release eh! Mali o tama, problema ng estado iyan. May tao kayo para gawan ng paraan iyan. So walang legal basis na sabihin silang fugitive from justice,” he said.
There were 1,914 heinous crime convicts, including rapists, murders and drug violators, who were released under GCTA policy from 2014 to August 2019. As of Saturday, 505 freed prisoners have been returned to the custody of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
“Kung magbo-voluntary surrender, walang problema. Eh kasi natatakot din, eh baka alam mo na. Pero kung pinilit mong bumalik, illegal arrest ‘yun,” Olalia said.