Senate summons Bureau of Corrections chief

September 01, 2019
Nicanor Faeldon

THE Senate summoned Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon to the Senate hearing on the alleged impending release of former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez from the New Bilibid Prisons.

Faeldon was originally sent an invitation but this was charged to a  subpoena which was signed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III after Faeldon’s office sent word that he would not be able to attend the hearing on Monday as he had a seminar to attend at the Canadian Embassy.

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon said the hearing will tackle the impending release of Sanchez based on Republic Act No. 10592 which allows deductions from a prison term based on good conduct.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had revealed that Sanchez is one of thousands of inmates eligible for the recomputation of good conduct time allowances on the basis of RA No. 10592 and a Supreme Court ruling that made the law retroactive.

Faeldon denied signing any release order for Sanchez and said he was surprised when the former mayor’s family appeared before his office on August 20 and demanded details of his release.

A document however had Faeldon’s signature on a document supposed to be Sanchez’s release order.      
 On way out?

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday was tight-lipped on reports that the appointment of retired Army Lt. Gen. Milfredo Melegrito as deputy director of the Bureau of Corrections was a sign that BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon is on his way out.

“I have no personal information on that matter. As the appointing authority, the President alone can answer that. For now, these talks remain as speculations,” Guevarra said.

He issued the statement following the announcement of the appointment of Melegrito amid the controversy over the release of prisoners on good behavior.

However, Guevarra said  Malacañang considered Melegrito for the post even before the issue on the good conduct time allowance started hogging the headlines.

“I do not know him personally and I’m not sure if I’ve met him before. I believe he was considered for appointment as deputy director of BuCor even before the GCTA controversy blew up,” Guevarra said.                             
Approval by DOJ

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday said that the release of prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment must be approved by the Secretary of Justice even if they are qualified to be set free under the law on good conduct time allowance (GCTA).

Drilon made the remark ahead of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry into the alleged impending release of Sanchez made possible by Republic Act No. 10592 or the law on GCTA.

According to Drilon, Section 8 of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Act of 2013 provides that the Department of Justice shall “retain authority over the power to review, reverse, revise or modify the decisions of the BuCor in the exercise of its regulatory or quasi-judicial functions.”

He added that former Acting Justice Secretary now Supreme Court Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa also issued an order in 2015 saying that the release of prisoners sentenced to life-long jail should be approved by the Justice secretary.

“Ang pagpapalaya sa isang nakakulong dahilan sa good conduct time allowance is an exercise of quasi-judicial function at may kapangyarihan ang Secretary of Justice,” Drilon said.

“Ang ibig sabihin lang, kung hindi ka convicted of a heinous crime at hindi ka convicted of life imprisonment, hindi kailangan ng approval ng Secretary of Justice. Pero pagdating doon sa mga kaso na life imprisonment, sang-ayon sa department order noong 2015, kailangan ng approval ng Secretary of Justice sang-ayon sa Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013,” he added.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra revealed earlier this month that Sanchez is one of thousands of inmates eligible for the recomputation of good conduct time allowances on the basis of RA 10592 and a Supreme Court ruling that made the effectivity of the law retroactive.

Sanchez was sentenced in 1995 to seven counts of reclusion perpetua (40 years each) for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines-Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of her friend and fellow UPLB student Allan Gomez in 1993.

Thousands of inmates could be released within the next two months, Guevarra added.

But if Guevarra did not sign the release orders of around 1,914 heinous crime convicts, then setting them free was “invalid,” Drilon said.

“‘Yung release dahilan sa good conduct time allowance ay invalid dahil walang approval at puwedeng hulihin ulit ‘yung nai-release,” he said.

“Puwede silang ibalik sa kulungan dahil hindi dumaan sa Secretary of Justice,” he added.