SEPTEMBER 11, 2019 – Former Interior secretary Mar Roxas on Wednesday said the investigation on the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law should focus on erring Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials, not on the alleged irregularities in the law’s implementation manual.
In a phone interview with One Newsroom, Roxas said the real question was how nearly 2,000 heinous crime convicts were granted early release on the basis of good behavior, when they should not have qualified for the privilege in the first place.
“Bakit hindi ko sasagutin? Wala naman akong tinatago. But that’s not the issue, the issue is paanong [muntik] nakalaya si Sanchez… and rapists ng Chiong sisters,” Roxas said. “The real question is how was the law implemented [and] how was it operationalized.”
Roxas, who was DILG chief when the GCTA law was passed, was reacting to a directive of the Office of the Ombudsman asking him and former justice secretary Sen. Leila de Lima to explain the supposed loopholes in the GCTA rules.
Section 1 of the Republic Act 10592 bans recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes from the privilege of early release on the basis of good conduct.
This crucial provision, however, was omitted in the implementing rules crafted by Roxas and De Lima in 2014 under the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III.
In defense, Roxas said concerned agencies should still have followed the law despite the supposed discrepancies in its attached implementation manual.
“The IRR cannot supercede, amend, reduce, and add to the law. Kahit pa may mali-mali, and I’m not saying mali nga, kahit pa blanko ang IRR, what will prevail is what’s in the law,” he told One News.
For her part, De Lima took Ombudsman’s directive as a possible setup to divert the focus from sacked BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon.
“Is this a set-up for me and Sec. Mar into taking the fall for the Sanchez-Faeldon scandal with which we have nothing to do? I find this development highly irregular,” she said in a statement.
The detained senator also pointed out some ambiguities in the Ombudsman’s letter.
“Am I to be treated here as a resource person, a respondent, or a probable respondent?” De Lima added.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier claimed that De Lima and Roxas failed to “scrutinize well” the law while they were crafting the manual for its implementation, opening doors for varied interpretations of some provisions.
The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission had also sought their explanation, alleging that the errors could be “intentional.”
The latest figure from the Philippine National Police shows that 230 GCTA-released heinous crime convicts have already surrendered to authorities, eight days ahead of the September 19 deadline set by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government and the DOJ have temporarily suspended the processing of GCTA requests to give way to a review of the law’s IRR. The review, which started last August 29, is expected to end on Thursday, September 12. (Winona Sadia/JMF)