DOJ scrambling to release qualified convicts 'who should not have surrendered'

MANILA, Philippines – Convicts perfectly qualified for release but surrendered anyway on President Rodrigo Duterte's orders would have to wait a little longer for freedom as the Department of Justice (DOJ) scrambles to clean up all lists related to the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) mess.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters that there are around 300 convicts up for release who "should not have surrendered [and] must be released immediately." These convicts were presumed to have been released on non-GCTA related grounds but decided to heed the President's ultimatum.

Asked for clarification on Wednesday, September 25, Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said that the DOJ was still verifying every name on the list of 300.

"We are checking if: 1) they are surrenderers whose cases are non-GCTA related; 2) if not surrenderers, they have been acquitted, on parole, etc" Perete said.

Perete said "priority" would be given to who had been released on non-GCTA related grounds but who surrendered because of Duterte's threat of a warrantless arrest.

This means that convicts who are up for release because they were either acquitted or granted parole would take a backseat for now.

"It's a tedious process but called for under the circumstances," said Perete.

"In short, we don’t want the list of those to be released to be polluted. That’s why were looking at releases by tranches," he added.

Perete said it is "humanly impossible" to release all those on the list of 300 on Wednesday, but that the DOJ planned the first tranche of convicts to be released  by the end of the day.

"Considering the number of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) involved, we plan to release in tranches, the first of which will hopefully happen today," said Perete.

The DOJ has also yet to finalize the list of released heinous crime convicts who did not surrender and who should be rearrested on the power of Duterte's verbal order.

As of 9 am on Monday, September 23, a total of 2,221 individuals have surrendered – more than the Bureau of Correction's initial 1,914 figure.

All the confusion on prisoners' records point to BuCor's problematic record-keeping.

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Senator Richard Gordon has berated BuCor officials for a lousy job in documentation. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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