Some surrenderers found eligible for release opt to stay in jail for now

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — Some of the previously released inmates that the Justice Department has found to be entitled for release on valid grounds are refusing to leave jail – for now – without the government's assurance they will not be rearrested or ordered to surrender again in the future.

This was revealed by Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete, who admitted that the department was caught off guard by the mass surrender of freed convicts Thursday night. This was the deadline set by President Rodrigo Duterte for heinous crime convicts who were allowed to walk free under the expanded good conduct law to surrender, saying their grave offenses exempt them from getting their jail time shortened based on good behavior.

In a press briefing on Friday, Perete revealed that a total of 2,009 individuals have turned themselves in, when the government was only expecting 1,914 heinous crime convicts to surface, based on an initial list by the Bureau of Corrections.

Perete said surrenderers whose names are not on the list are automatically eligible for release.

"According to the BuCor, those who surrendered last night, from 11:00 p.m. onwards, after verification that they were excluded from the initial list, they were asked by the BuCor to leave the premises," Perete said in a media briefing.

"However, they refused to do so because they were asking for a certification from the BuCor that they will no longer be the subject of rearrest," he added.

He did not mention how many of the surrenderers are staying in jail despite being asked to leave.

He added that at least 41 of those in the BuCor's initial list were actually granted parole or pardon and were not among those who benefited from questionable early releases. It is not clear whether they were among those who surrendered or not.

Perete said the Department of Justice is now swamped with work. Aside from "cleaning up" the erroneous list of heinous crime convicts, it has to prepare the certifications requested by the surrenderers.

"We are verifying the list. We are trying to come up with a cleaned up list and at the same time we will have to prepare the necessary documentation which would somehow legally protect those who have turned themsleves in that once they are already outside they will long longer be subject to rearrest," Perete said.

Re-arrests on hold

Police arrested at least four heinous crime convicts in Metro Manila early Friday. At around 5 a.m., Perete said they asked the Philippine National Police, through the Department of Interior and Local Government, to temporarily stop any more arrests until the DOJ releases an updated list of fugitives that should be apprehended.

Perete stressed that coming up with the list is not easy because of "complications." They have to remove from the initial list those who have surrendered, those who have been granted pardon or parole, and those who were not convicted of heinous crimes.

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Malacañang on Friday said it supports the DOJ's move to review the list first. PNP said it will hold off the re-arrest of heinous crime convicts pending the release of the document.

On Thursday morning, the DOJ found at least 600 individuals in the initial list have yet to surrender to authorities, but it is not clear if some of them were part of the mass surrender later that day.

Duterte previously offered a bounty of ₱1 million for each heinous crime convict captured after the deadline.

The government is trying to bring back to jail all heinous crime convicts who were freed since the implementation of the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law in 2013.

This controversial measure was put on spotlight following public outrage over reports former Mayor Antonio Sanchez of Calauan, Laguna, could be granted early release despite being convicted of rape and murder.

The high-profile case revealed at least 1,914 convicts had earlier been released on good conduct, prompting the DOJ to review the GCTA guidelines and the Senate to investigate the implementation of the law.

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