Malacañang on Thursday, September 5, said newly-elected Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa will also face investigation for signing release papers of heinous crime convicts during his term as chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
In a press briefing on Wednesday night, September 4, President Rodrigo Duterte said he will have the other BuCor officials investigated under the Office of the Ombudsman for allowing the early release of the 1,700 heinous crimes convicts through the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.
“This is a prima facie case. There’s an admission that they were remiss in their duties,” the president said.
Dela Rosa earlier admitted that he signed 120 release orders when he was BuCor director general from April to October 2018. Among those freed for good behavior, one was a drug convict.
“With respect to Senator Dela Rosa, then that requires an investigation on whatever circumstances that made him sign release papers. It’s a case-to-case basis,” said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo.
Dela Rosa, for his part, said he was open to a probe for those prisoner releases.
“No problem. I’m open to everything,” he said in a text message on Thursday, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
According to Panelo, it is the lawmakers’ call to recommend an inquiry if other former BuCor chiefs who served after the 2013 passage of Republic Act No. 10592 should be investigated for enforcing the law.
He added that it is also up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to work out a process for the investigation of the former BuCor chiefs.
For the BuCor chiefs who served before 2013 and implemented the good conduct provision of the Revised Penal Code, a complaint must be filed first before an investigation can be conducted, Panelo said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Wednesday, September 4, that he received “A-1” information that freedom could be bought by prisoners for millions of pesos from an organized group in the BuCor.
Senators Risa Hontiveros and Imee Marcos also said they were recipients of similar information.
A total of 22,049 prisoners were released through the GCTA law from 2014 to 2019, of which 1,914 were heinous crime convicts.
Duterte has ordered for the convicts’ surrender within 15 days or they would be treated as fugitives from the law and hunted down.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights that “not more than 10” convicts had surrendered as of Thursday morning.
He added that he received information about several freed convicts sending feelers for voluntary recommitment to prison.
“We hope that many more will follow within the next 15 days so that we won’t have to do some coercive measure,” Guevarra said.