Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director-general Nicanor Faeldon on Monday, September 2, attended the Senate inquiry over the alleged questionable application of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law.
Faeldon was summoned to the Senate after drawing public ire over the news that his agency approved the release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez based on good conduct while in prison.
Faeldon admitted that he received a memorandum recommending Sanchez’s release last July 20, but denied signing the release order.
“I signed a memorandum order that is the signal to process all the papers, but that is after I continuously consulted with the lawyer, ‘Why are we signing this?’” Faeldon told a joint hearing of the Senate justice and Blue Ribbon committees.
“I stopped the process of the release of Sanchez because I believe he is not entitled,” he added.
The joint hearing in aid of legislation was led by Senate committee on Justice and Human Rights, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon along with the Senate committees on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes; Public Order and Dangerous Drugs; and Finance presided by Senators. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa and Sonny Angara, respectively.
Faeldon said that the memorandum of release will trigger the process for the freedom of the prisoner when he was questioned by Pangilinan.
“The memorandum of release will be received by the superintendent and they will sign the release order, is that right?” Pangilinan asked in Filipino. “Was there a memorandum of release under your service that the superintendent did not sign or returned to you?
“No, your honor,” Faeldon answered.
“So it means you have the power and the memorandum of release is the key, while the release order only follows the memorandum of release,” Pangilinan said.
“Yes, sir, that will trigger the processing of the release until the superintendent issues the final release order,” Faeldon said.
He also clarified that the bureau did not change the way the law was implemented since the release of its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) in 2014, explaining that no convict is excluded in the granting of GCTA under the law’s IRR.
“That’s why in their computation… all convicted of any crime when they behave well in jail, they were granted GCTA,” Faeldon said.
According to him, a prisoner’s GCTA can only be suspended during the month that an infraction was committed based on the law’s IRR.
“In the succeeding month that they behaved well, the granting of GCTA resumes regardless of the gravity of these offenses,” he said.
This provision in the law’s IRR was cited by Faeldon after critics pointed out that Sanchez’s violations while in jail, apart from being convicted of heinous crimes, already disqualified him from benefiting from the GCTA law.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, noted that BuCor’s interpretation of the law “seems to be the prevailing rule before public outrage happened in the case of Mayor Sanchez.”
He said that the DOJ’s review of the law concluded that the proper interpretation of the GCTA law would be to exclude those convicted of heinous crimes from benefiting from GCTA.
During the Senate probe on Monday, Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked Faeldon when he would resign from his post.
“With blunders left and right, shortcomings in the implementation of the GCTA and simple but important questions that you should know the answers to, when will you resign from your position as BuCor head?” she asked in Filipino.
In response, the embattled BuCor chief said the “appointing authority” should decide if he should be sacked, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte who appointed him in November 2018. However, on Tuesday, September 3, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go said that the president is ready to fire Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon if he is found to have committed serious lapses in ordering the release of rape and murder convict Antonio Sanchez, drug traffickers and other high-profile prisoners.
Faeldon also said he doesn’t believe he should quit from his post, adding that he thinks he is doing a good job.
Hontiveros disagreed, saying: “So far, what is coming out in this committee hearing would point to the opposite direction.”
Gordon also slammed Faeldon for relying too much on his subordinates and asking someone from his office to answer the questions on the controversial implementation of GCTA.
“Why you should be therefore director of prison when you have to rely on others? Why don’t we just appoint the person you’re relying on,” Gordon said.
“You’re supposed to know your job. You’re not supposed to pass it,” he added.