MANILA - The number of surrenderers who have turned themselves in to authorities has exceeded the number of heinous crime convicts released under the controversial good conduct time allowance law, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Friday.
The Department of Justice said a total of 1,950 surrenderers have turned themselves in after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered heinous crime convicts that were freed under the GCTA law to surrender before September 19.
BuCor data however showed that only 1,914 heinous-crime convicts were released through the GCTA law since 2014.
This has prompted the DOJ to ask law enforcers to suspend the manhunt for heinous crime convicts who have yet to surrender as authorities review the GCTA list.
Guevarra said one reason for the discrepancy is that some of the surrenderers are not even on the list.
"I myself was amazed. Normally a [person deprived of liberty] in that situation would react in this way: 'It's not my fault if I was released. I acted in good faith. They told me I could now go. So why should I come back?" Guevarra said on ANC's Headstart.
He added that more surrenderers are already in police custody after President Rodrigo Duterte issued a 15-day ultimatum for heinous crime convicts released under the GCTA law to surrender.
Guevarra said one reason why freed convicts are returning is because they fear for their lives.
"One is probably they are afraid for their life because the president said you better surrender otherwise you'll be hunted down dead or alive. Maybe they fear for their lives. I guess that's one primary reason," he said.
He explained that another reason could be because they find it difficult to adjust outside prison.
"Maybe they don't have any relatives welcoming them or they couldn't find work anymore because they are quite old. They may actually feel life inside is better because I'm assured of 3 meals a day no matter how small it maybe. Maybe some people think along that way," he said.
Guevarra recommended a suspension of police operations against persons deprived of liberty who have yet to surrender while BuCor reviews and verifies its list of freed convicts under GCTA.
"We deemed it safe and prudent not to pursue any coercive law enforcement action at this time because we may unduly or unnecessarily endanger the life of not only the PDL but even the law enforcement agents," he said.
The BuCor's primary function will be to recompute the good conduct time allowance of returning PDLs to find out if they are included or excluded from the benefits of the 2013 GCTA law or not, he said.
"If the BuCor, after recomputation, finds out even without the benefit of GCTA law of 2013 you have already served your sentence because of the good conduct time allowance under the Revised Penal Code, you are now free."
He added, "It's only really those who were improperly or prematurely released who have to complete the remaining part of their sentence."