Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go enjoined the Department of Justice (DOJ), during a Senate hearing on Thursday, September 5, to do their sworn duties in fixing the country’s correctional facilities and ensuring fair treatment of inmates.
In his statement, Go stressed that all prisoners must be treated equally in jail, and that the patronage culture in correctional facilities must be eliminated.
“To the DOJ, do your sworn duties. I am sure you are very competent. Let us fix our correctional facilities,” Go said.
“All prisoners, mayaman o mahirap, must be treated equally. Pare-parehas lang dapat. Walang palakasan sa bilangguan,” he added.
Go opened his statement by affirming his support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to rearrest convicts who were released due to the wrongful application of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.
“I fully support the call for the immediate arrest of all recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and prisoners convicted of heinous crimes who were released because of the wrongful application of Good Conduct Time Allowances under Republic Act (RA) No. 10592,” the senator said.
Go added that actions to be taken by government must not be limited to the re-arrests, as there are still allegations of GCTA for sale and special treatment in correctional facilities.
“We don’t have to stop there. There are still allegations of GCTA for sale. Mayroon pa ring special treatment sa loob ng bilangguan. Maraming nagpapasok ng contraband. This is what happens. This is the reality. We have to get to the bottom of this para matuldukan na,” the senator said.
Go also urged his fellow senators to amend immediately the Revised Penal Code, which was earlier modified by RA 10592, to address contentious issues and ambiguities in the application of the said law.
“To my fellow Senators, we have to do our part for the people. Let us heed the call of the nation. We need to amend the law immediately to make it clear that recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and those convicted of heinous crimes cannot be granted time allowances,” he said.
Go also demanded transparency from the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) when it comes to the release of any prisoner.
“Let us force the BuCor to be transparent in the releases of any prisoner,” he said.
Go filed on Tuesday, September 2, his Senate Bill (SB) No. 1003, which seeks to amend the Revised Penal Code, particularly Articles 29, 97, 98 and 99, the same provisions which were amended and rendered unclear by RA 10592.
The proposed bill recognizes that the aforementioned articles in the RPC, as amended by RA 10592, gave the notion that prisoners, including recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and persons charged with heinous crimes, are entitled to GCTA benefits.
Through SB No. 1003, Go added a provision that clearly states that recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and convicts of heinous crimes “will not be eligible to be granted time allowances.” He also shared that he added a list of heinous crimes to further avoid confusion and a provision that all prisoners for release on the basis of time allowances shall be subject for review.
The bill also states that Congress will be informed of the releases, “as the Bureau of Corrections will be required to furnish the Legislature with a report twice a year.”
“All of these will form part of our continuing fight against corruption and criminality, and illegal drugs,” Go said.
Meanwhile, in view of President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for the rearrest or surrender of nearly 2,000 heinous crime convicts wrongfully released, Go asked the DOJ if any of these prisoners have already surrendered, or if the President’s call has led to any violent incidents due to resisting arrest.
“May we know who have surrendered? May nag-resist ba? Nagkaroon na ba ng shoot out since they are already fugitives from justice?” said Go.
DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that several of the wrongfully released people deprived of liberty (PDLs) have expressed voluntary commitment to prison, while no related incidents of violence have been reported yet.
“I have received information that several PDLs that are prematurely released on account of GCTA have sent feelers for their voluntary commitment to prison. So probably, they are just waiting for mechanics or the procedure on how to go about on doing this,” Guevarra said.
“But we are not aware of any violent incident,” he added.