‘SURRENDER NOW!’ Are there WV heinous crime convicts freed on good conduct?

ILOILO City – Were there heinous crime convicts from Western Visayas freed early due to the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law? The Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) has no data yet on this but stressed it is open to receiving those who would surrender, according to its spokesperson, Police Lieutenant Colonel Joem Malong.

The 1,914 heinous crime convicts freed from the National Bilibid Prison early on the basis of a wrong interpretation of the GCTA law (Republic Act 10592) may be rearrested without a warrant of arrest for committing the crime of “evasion of sentence”, Justice secretary Menardo Guevarra said yesterday.

“The PRO-6 will welcome those who would surrender. What they have to do is to bring the documents related to their having been freed early,” said Malong.

The other day, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines to help one another search for the freed convicts. He also gave these convicts 15 days to surrender voluntarily.

Data from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) showed 1,227 convicts across Western Visayas had been remitted to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila since 2016.

Deputy director for administration Jail Superintendent Gilbert Peremne told Panay News they have no idea yet if there were those who availed themselves of the GCTA.

He directed 37 jail wardens across the region to review their lists of convicts who had been transferred to the National Bilibid Prison.

In Camp Crame yesterday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) announced it would be deploying tracker teams to locate the freed heinous crimes convicts.

“All police units nationwide have been directed by PNP chief Police General Oscar Albayalde to immediately receive and account for prisoners released through GCTA who will heed the order of the President, and opt to surrender within the given 15-day grace period,” PNP spokesperson, Brigadier General Bernard Banac said.

He added: “Tracker teams will be deployed. These convicts will be treated as fugitives if they choose not to surrender. As fugitives from justice, they can be subjected to warrantless arrest.”

Meanwhile, during the House Committee on Appropriations hearing yesterday on the proposed Department of Justice (DOJ) budget for 2020, Guevarra said if the persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) freed on account of GCTA failed to turn themselves in to either the police or the military after the 15-day grace period, they could be considered “fugitives of justice.”

“We may view this situation as something like an evasion of a sentence. In other words, you were given an opportunity to surrender to complete your service, and you refused without justification, then you are evading your sentence,” he explained.

“And if you are evading your sentence, you are committing another crime. And that is a continuing crime for each day, each hour, each minute that you do not comply with your sentence. For that reason, even a warrantless arrest may be possible because it is a continuing offense. Any officer of the law, and even a private individual, under our rules of court, may have the authority to arrest a person committing a crime in his presence,” Guevarra said./PN


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