Fate of manhunt vs. GCTA-freed convicts up to PRRD: DOJ

MANHUNT UP TO PRRD. Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete, in a press briefing on Friday (Sept. 20, 2019), clarifies that President Rodrigo R. Duterte has the full prerogative to continue or suspend the rearrest and recovery of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who were released erroneously under the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law. The President earlier said PDLs who refuse to surrender to authorities after the 15-day deadline he gave would be considered as fugitives and face arrest. (Screengrab from PTV)

MANILA — President Rodrigo R. Duterte has the full prerogative to continue or suspend the rearrest and recovery of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), who were erroneously released under the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law, a Department of Justice (DOJ) official said Friday.

“It must be emphasized that it is only the Office of the President which can put on hold officially the rearrest, because the original order came from the President himself,” Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said, as more than 2,000 PDLs surrendered to authorities at the end of the President’s 15-day deadline.

Earlier on Friday, the DOJ ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to suspend its manhunt operations pending the issuance of a revised list of the names of heinous crime convicts who were prematurely released.

Delays have hampered government efforts to complete the revised list of PDLs released through the GCTA.

Part of the problem, Perete said, was that official prison records were with the Senate, which has been conducting a legislative inquiry into irregularities hounding the country’s corrections system.

Perete said the incomplete records of prisoners were also hampering their determination of those entitled to be released, since the records only listed penalties imposed on individual prisoners and not necessarily the offense committed by the PDLs.

The justice department earlier asserted that persons convicted of heinous crimes are among those not eligible for the benefits of the GCTA Law.

“We had to remove from the list those who had been pardoned and those who are out on parole. Theoretically, the remainder would be those who were convicted of heinous crimes. However, if we go over the residual list, the penalties imposed on certain individuals would be reclusion perpetua or reclusion perpetua to death,” Perete said.

Some individuals who have turned themselves in have refused to leave the Bureau of Corrections despite assurances that they were not among those which the authorities seek to re-arrest.

He added that concerned agencies were working round the clock to “prepare the necessary documentation, which would somehow legally protect those who have turned themselves in so that when they are already outside, they will not be subject to rearrest.”

Perete assured that precautions were being undertaken to prevent the harassment of innocent prisoners released, as well as to ensure the capture of heinous crime convicts. Benjamin Pulta/PNA- northboundasia.com