Philippine President fires head of Bureau of corrections for mass releases of convicts, rearrest of at least 1,700
MANILA, Sep 5, 2019, PhilStar. Saying he suspected corruption, President Duterte announced yesterday he had fired Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Nicanor Faeldon for disobeying his order to stop the release of convicts based on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law. At the same time, Duterte ordered the immediate rearrest of at least 1,700 convicts freed through the CGTA law, reported The Philippine Star.
“I would address myself ‘yung lahat nakulong at na-release sa batas na ito (all those released through this law), 1,700 of you, you surrender and have yourself registered with the BuCor,” he said.
He gave the freed convicts 15 days of freedom to make themselves available for investigation with the BuCor or they would be considered fugitives to be hunted down “dead or alive.”
Duterte, however, said he saw no reason to fire his spokesman Salvador Panelo for endorsing a request for executive clemency for rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez.
The President indicated he may no longer give Faeldon a new post in government, as he had done twice in the past.
Duterte also said he would leave to the Office of the Ombudsman the fate of other BuCor officials involved in the mass release under the GCTA law.
“The records will show that a wrong has been committed and maybe corruption,” he said. “I suspect that corruption is present there.”
He said he would put up a bounty of P1 million each or a total of P1.7 billion should the freed prisoners refuse to surrender.
“I will give you 15 days liberty provided you make yourself available anytime that you will be called for investigation to have a recomputation or if there’s an investigation of corruption that you cooperate fully,” the President told s press briefing at Malacañang yesterday.
On the other hand, he said “Faeldon has to go because he disobeyed my order,” adding that he was “definitely” firing Faeldon.
“Yes, I am firing Nic Faeldon. He said he is placing his destiny in my hands,” he said.
Faeldon reportedly tried to talk with the President after the controversy on the supposed release of former Calauan, Laguna mayor Sanchez.
“I am not talking to him,” the President said, adding that Sen. Christopher Go relayed to him the request of Faeldon for an audience with him.
But Duterte also defended Faeldon’s previous stint as Bureau of Customs chief, saying he was instrumental in the government’s going after Mighty Cigarettes’ illegal production and made the firm pay P38 billion in taxes.
The President said in jest he would also have to ask Faeldon what position he would want should he still wish to stay in government.
He said Faeldon did not follow his order that no release of prisoners should be carried out until further notice by higher authorities, which means him, Executive Secretary Salvador Midealdea and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
“It means that I am investigating when I said there should be no releases,” he said.
But Duterte added that Faeldon justified the release with his own computation.
“If only he followed my order and said that he is waiting for further notice by higher authorities and not tell the media that the release was based on his computation, (he would not go wrong),” he said.
Based on the GCTA law, former mayor Sanchez was supposed to be released last August after earning enough GCTA.
This, however, did not push through following public outrage.
Faeldon admitted he signed an order that supposedly started the processing of Sanchez’s release, but insisted he had no choice but to follow Republic Act 10592, the 2013 law which increased GCTA to cover detention time.
A former mutineer, Faeldon was initially appointed as Customs chief.
It was under Faeldon’s watch when some billions worth of shabu slipped past port inspections.
He quit the Customs’ top post in 2017 and had a short stint at the Office of Civil Defense before being appointed to BuCor in late 2018.
Faeldon, for his part, said that as a former Marine officer he has no choice but to follow the President’s order to relieve him of his duties at the corrections bureau.
In a statement sent to GMA News, Faeldon said he would not have any problem following the decision of the President. ?“My commander-in-chief/appointing authority has spoken. I am a Marine and a Marine does as he is told,” he said, stressing that he is bowing to Duterte’s order without any hard feelings.?He earlier admitted that he signed a memorandum effectively approving the release of Sanchez, but claimed that he stopped it the same day.?Faeldon on Monday said he would not resign because he has been doing a good job.?
Ready to resign
Duterte also pointed out he is ready to be investigated or even impeached for such order recalling the release of the 1,700 prisoners because of the GCTA law.
“I’m ready to resign if warranted. But that is my decision and that is mine and mine alone. So anybody acting upon my orders will be treated as exercising good faith,” the President said.
He also stressed that there is a law as relayed in the Cabinet meeting by Secretary (Menardo) Guevarra that when one is released based on a wrongful interpretation or a faulty construction of the law, one can be arrested anytime because one has to serve one’s sentence in fully as the order is null and void.
The President said he is giving Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III three days to find the P1.7 billion needed for the P1 million per head for each of the 1,700 released prisoners.
“Right now, they have to start working on it. We cannot just wait for any amendatory law. We have to do something whether right or wrong,” the President added.
Full faith in Panelo
Despite the controversy, Duterte said he still fully trusts Panelo.
“I have full faith in Panelo. What Panelo did was right. I trust him,” the President said regarding the move of Panelo to refer to the Board of Pardons and Parole the letter of the Sanchez family requesting for executive clemency.
The President defended Panelo’s move and said he knew what he was doing, having a thriving law practice.
Panelo happened to be one of the lawyers of Sanchez at the height of the hearing on the case of the Calauan mayor, who was convicted for raping and killing University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend Allan Gomez in 1993.
“Yong ginawa ni Panelo lawyering yon. Panelo did not commit any infraction, he happened to be a lawyer at that time he merely referred. Panelo just referred it,” the President further said.
The President also sought to distance himself from the GCTA fiasco, saying the law was not passed during his time.
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the police would arrest heinous crime convicts who were freed due to the GCTA if they would not surrender within the 15-day deadline imposed by the President.
“After the deadline, the PNP (Philippine National Police) will track and arrest those who will not surrender themselves to authorities,” he said in a text message to reporters.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Ombudsman said it is finalizing the composition of the team that will conduct a formal investigation of BuCor officials involved in the incident.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires said he is now working on the case. “I just had an initial discussion with some officers who will be assigned to conduct the investigation,” Martires said.
Under Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989, the ombudsman has the power to launch a motu-propio or self-initiated investigation against any officer or employee of a government agency suspected of committing illegal acts, even without any formal complaint filed against him or her.
With Alexis Romero, Emmanuel Tupas, Elizabeth Marcelo, Ralph Villanueva