Guevarra: Surrender of qualified convicts 'phenomenal'

MANILA, Philippines – For Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, qualified convicts surrendering on the sole basis of President Rodrigo Duterte's ultimatum is a "phenomenal" thing.

"Sumurrender. 1,900 lang 'yung nasa listahan, 2,200 plus 'yung sumurrender, hindi ba phenomenal 'yun? Hindi ka naman pinapasuko, sumuko ka," Guevarra told reporters Thursday, September 26. 

(Only around 1,900 are on the list but more than 2,200 surrendered. Isn't that phenomenal? You're not being asked to surrender, but you surrendered.)

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

That means there are around 300 who should not have surrendered, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot release them yet as it scrambles to clean up a list to make sure they will be releasing the right prisoners. (READ: Guevarra: DOJ survived GCTA crisis by upholding rule of law)

Some inmates who surrendered and who are qualified for release were immediately cleared by BuCor but they refused to leave Bilibid without a written clearance.

The surrenders happened amid Duterte's casual warning of a "dead or alive" rearrest with the police force saying they are ready to shoot convicts who will resist.

Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) said the surrender of qualified convicts is not phenomenal, but proves the inept government work so far on the compilation of lists.

"It validates the view or opinion that moving lists (of those who should “surrender” purportedly because they are unqualified or improvidently released because they are “evading service of sentence”) are unreliable, inaccurate and confusing, if not tainted," said Olalia.

Olalia added: "It also compromises and undermines complying with the legal bases for effecting arrests without warrants."

Legal protection

In an earlier interview, Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said they were working on individual clearances that would legally protect the prisoners.

"That documentation should be legal protection from further rearrest," said Perete.

Guevarra said that some 25 qualified convicts may get out on Thursday.

"That's what I know as of yesterday. It could be more by now because it was 25 yesterday afternoon," said Guevarra.

Guevarra added: "Several will be released today, we really hope that it could have been earlier, pero to be very frank medyo hindi maayos ang record-keeping ng BuCor so we do not want to commit mistakes here at the expense of medyo using up more time, hindi na bale. We just want to make sure na 'yung ia-allow namin na lumabas ay talagang karapat-dapat na lumabas."

(Several will be released today, we really hope that it could have been earlier, but to be very frank, BuCor's record-keeping was problematic so we do not want to commit mistakes here at the expense of using up more time. We just want to make sure that we will be freeing prisoners who are qualified to be released.)

Guevarra once again pushed for reform where DOJ could be given more control over BuCor.

"I would say that had we exercised closer supervision over the BuCor we could have found out that this is what's happening. We are quite complacent that things were going smoothly. Why? Because nobody was complaining," said Guevarra. –

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 or tweet @lianbuan.