1,525 returnees to spend Christmas in prison 3 months after GCTA controversy

MANILA, Philippines – At least 1,525 people who returned to prison in the aftermath of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law controversy will spend Christmas in detention. This is more than 3 months after they were forced to surrender. 

According to Department of Justice Assistant Secretary Neal Vincent Bainto, the documents of the returnees are still being validated to determine whether they were included in the wrongful implementation of the GCTA law.  

“This is a continuing process,” he said. “They would be released in batches.”  

Only 827 people have so far been released out of the total 2,352 returnees. The Bureau of Corrections' original list contained fewer names that numbered 1,914. 

The DOJ is confident many will remain detained even after processing.

“We think that probably a good number of the remaining surrenderers will be re-incarcerated,” Bainto said. 

President Rodrigo Duterte in September 2019 ordered heinous crime convicts released through the GCTA  law to surrender for recomputation of their benefits. 

He gave them 15 days to surrender or risk being considered fugitives, placing a P1-million bounty on their heads “dead or alive.” 

The order stemmed from public outrage over the aborted release of rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez, former mayor and one of the beneficiaries of a Supreme Court ruling that made the GCTA law retroactive.

The DOJ then revised the law’s implementing rules and regulations to state that inmates convicted of heinous crimes like Sanchez are not qualified to avail of the new GCTA law.

But a Rappler investigation found that there were former convicts who surrendered out of fear due to Duterte’s order, even if they did not avail of the GCTA law for their release. Many convicts also reported being forced or threatened to return.

A total of 4 returnees have died while inside the Minimum Security Compound in Bilibid. Thousands of returnees have been forced to suffer distressing conditions given the poor state of facilities inside the national penitentiary.

– Rappler.com