Duterte to fire BuCor officials linked to corruption

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he will be firing Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials linked to corruption, but will not axe officials who have acted in good faith.

“Everybody will have to go,” Duterte said in a speech Thursday. “[But] if it is done in good faith, 'di kita anuhin. Pero kung sabihin mo na bayaran, that is another story. I will hit you, not because the law was in the limbo, but because of corruption.”

[Translation: Everybody will have to go … But if it is done in good faith, I will not touch you. But if there’s bribery involved, that is another story. I will hit you not because the law was in limbo, but because of corruption.]

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier told CNN Philippines’ The Source that Duterte may revamp BuCor amid the corruption allegations hounding it, which all surfaced following questions on the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) policy that nearly freed convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez.

The government has since stopped processing GCTA applications of inmates, while Duterte has sacked Nicanor Faeldon as BuCor chief. The Office of the Ombudsman had also suspended 30 BuCor officials after finding strong evidence linking them to corruption.

Duterte said the expanded GCTA law, which was enacted during the administration of his predecessor, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, is “questionable” as it did not specify who should sign release orders for convicts.

“When the Secretary of Justice himself, si [Menardo] Guevarra, said, ‘We will ask for a clarificatory question or for the Supreme Court to explain,’ that law becomes in doubt and questionable. Then, you cannot convict a person for the rule that he must be proved to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt,” Duterte said.

Guevarra said the draft of the new implementing rules and regulations of the expanded GCTA law would be submitted Thursday.

He said the draft of the new IRR makes clear that recidivists, habitual deliquents, escapees and those convicted of heinous crimes are not entitled to GCTA. This, even if the law states that any convicted prisoner is entitled to it.

The expanded GCTA law, which amended portions of the Revised Penal Code, states that the BuCor chief, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology chief, or a warden of a provincial, district, municipal or city jail can grant allowances for good conduct.

The same law more than doubled the allowances convicts can get for behaving well in prison.

While it did not say who should sign release orders, Justice Department Order 953 states that the Justice secretary should be the final approving authority for the release of inmates sentenced to reclusion perpetua.

Faeldon has admitted during the Senate probe on the GCTA fiasco that he is clueless about the department order. He signed release orders for several convicts, including Sanchez.

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who headed the BuCor before Faeldon, had also admitted to releasing 120 heinous crime convicts without Guevarra’s approval.

Dela Rosa sought power to free convicts on his own, but this request was not acted on.

The Senate probe on the GCTA policy, which witnesses have said is offered for sale by some BuCor officials, has expanded to cover other alleged anomalies in the BuCor.

Former BuCor acting chief Rafael Ragos told the Senate on Thursday that he personally observed and experienced “money-making” schemes of New Bilibid Prison officers, including allowing female performers and entertainers into prison cells, who would then be kidnapped when they leave prison premises.

Dumaguete City-based journalist Roy Bustillo contributed to this report.