De Lima says Ombudsman request for explanation on GCTA rules ‘highly irregular’

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019   •   597

Senator Leila de Lima (File photo by Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB)

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday said she finds the request of the Office of the Ombudsman to explain the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Republic Act 10592, which increased the good conduct time allowance given to inmates, as “highly irregular.”

In a statement, De Lima confirmed she has received the letter of the Ombudsman directing her to explain or clarify in writing the IRR of the GCTA law.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires earlier wrote a letter, a copy of which was released to the media, requesting De Lima and Mar Roxas to explain the implementing rules they drafted for RA 10592.

READ: Ombudsman seeks De Lima, Roxas clarification amid probe on GCTA rules

De Lima was the Justice Secretary while Roxas was the Interior and Local Government chief when the law was enacted in 2013.

Martires wanted De Lima and Roxas to explain why the IRR they drafted only disqualifies from benefitting from the law those who are recidivists, who have been convicted previously twice or more times of any crime and those who failed to surrender before a court after being summoned.

The Republic Act 10592, which expanded the GCTA stated in the Revised Penal Code, excludes recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes from its coverage.

“In this regard, this (Ombudsman) Office requests the submission, within three days from receipt hereof, of a written explanation/clarification on why the foregoing provision in the IRR does not contain the same disqualifications as enumerated in the last paragraph of Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 1 of R.A. 10592,” the letter read.

But De Lima noted the opening of the letter, which says the Office of the Ombudsman has “opened a fact-finding investigation on alleged irregularities in the implementation of the GCTA law.”

“Am I to be treated here as a resource person, a respondent, or a probable respondent?” she asked.

“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?” she added.

De Lima said she finds this development “highly irregular,” and that she will have to consult her lawyers on the matter.

The senator was referring to earlier reports that convicted rapist-murderer, ex-Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez could be among the 11,000 convicts eligible for early release due to the new GCTA rule.

The news sparked public outrage and led to Sanchez’s aborted release, President Rodrigo Duterte’s dismissal of Nicanor Faeldon as Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief and the Ombudsman’s order to suspend several BuCor officials linked to the questionable application of the GCTA law.

A series of Senate hearing on the issue also revealed the purported ‘GCTA for sale’ and ‘hospital pass for sale’ at the national penitentiary.

The said schemes allegedly involving several BuCor executives purportedly allow moneyed inmates to get hospital referrals and other prison benefits on the basis of tampered medical record that would make it appear that they need to be transferred to less congested facilities for health reasons.

US Sen. Durbin renews call for De Lima’s release from detention

Robie de Guzman   •   January 9, 2020

US Senator Richard Durbin

MANILA, Philippines – United States Senator Richard Durbin renewed his call for the Duterte administration to release detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima, saying this is an “easy and honorable way forward.”

In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Durbin urged the Philippine government to give De Lima a quick and credible trial instead of threatening the travel of Americans with visa requirements.

“The Duterte regime should stop threatening the travel of Americans and so many others who travel between our nations, and instead ensure a quick and credible trial for Senator de Lima or simply do the right thing and release her,” he said.

Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said the Philippine government would require all Americans to secure a visa before entering the country should the US government enforce the ban on Filipino officials said to be involved in De Lima’s detention.

The Philippine government also ordered the Bureau of Immigration to deny entry to Durbin and Senator Patrick Leahy.

It was Leahy and Durbin who pushed for the inclusion of a provision in the US 2020 budget banning the entry of Philippine officials linked to the detention of the Filipino senator.

Another American senator, Edward Markey, has also been banned from entering the Philippines for filing a resolution calling for De Lima’s release.

De Lima, one of Duterte administration’s fierce critics, has been detained since 2017 over her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade while she was Justice Secretary. She has repeatedly denied the charges.

Panelo reiterated that De Lima’s detention was not a case of political persecution, insisting that the senator was afforded due process and that there is a “probable cause” to issue a warrant for her arrest. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

57 GCTA returnees, 59 parolees walk free in time for the holidays

Marje Pelayo   •   December 25, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – More than a hundred persons deprived of liberty (PDL) walked free from prison on Tuesday (December 24) just in time for the holidays.

A total of 57 inmates who returned to jail and had their Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) privileges reviewed can now reunite with their respective families.

Meanwhile, 59 PDLs from inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) were finally granted parole — the best gift they were able to receive this holiday.

“Based po doon sa aming strict evaluation ng kanilang mga karpeta, so nakita namin na entitled sila doon sa GCTA, (Based on our strict evaluation of their records, we assessed that they really are entitled to the GCTA),” explained BuCor OIC for Documents, SJO3 Albert Manalo.

“We found out na talagang na-serve na nila ang  (We found out that they already have served their) conviction, so we do not have any legal basis for their continued stay,” he added.

According to the BuCor, there are still more than a thousand GCTA returnees whose cases they need to asses.

These returnees surrendered themselves following a call from President Rodrigo Duterte during the height of the controversy when alleged heinous crime criminals also benefitted from the GCTA.

 “It has started already and it will continue as there are records that are finished and evaluated. Tuluy-tuloy ang pagpapa-release, (Continuous release will proceed),”assured BuCor PIO Chief Gabriel Chaclag.

“Pwede nating sabihing by batch, but as soon as may naipon, (We can do it by batch. As soon as their cases are reviewed, release will follow). Kasi ang direction ni Director General Bantag ay bilisan (Director General Bantag’s direction is to expedite the process) in compliance with the directive of our beloved president,” Chaclag added.

Meanwhile, BuCor calls on qualified jobseekers to consider joining the agency as they are in need of more than a thousand correction officers such as nurses, teachers, doctors, lawyers among others.

Interested applicants may visit the BuCor office for information

Ombudsman lambasts journalist over disrespect, ‘SALN wiretapping’

Marje Pelayo   •   December 19, 2019

Ombudsman Samuel Martires

MANILA, Philippines — Ombudsman Samuel Martires on Wednesday (December 18) lambasted journalist Malou Mangahas for secretly recording him in an informal conversation regarding his decision not to release President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for 2018.

In a statement, Judge Martires stressed that what he had with Mangahas was never a formal interview but a brief, informal conversation while the journalist was being persistent, tailing him in the hallway of a hotel in Manila on Monday (December 9).

Martires said he was never informed by Mangahas that she was already interviewing him and worse, he was not informed that the journalist was already recording him.

“For the record, hindi humingi ng consent mula sa akin bilang interviewee si Ms. Mangahas para irekord ang aming kaswal na pag-uusap (Ms. Mangahas did not ask for my permission to record our casual conversation),” Martires said.

“Sa ganang akin, hindi lamang niya nilapastangan ang aking pagkatao ngunit nilabag pa niya ang Anti-Wiretapping Law (For my part, she did not only disrespect my person but she also violated the Anti-Wiretapping Law),” he stressed.

Martires continued saying Mangahas showed an “unethical behavior” unbecoming of a veteran journalist and writer.

Martires insisted that while he recognizes the public’s right to access SALNs of public officials, he is mandated to protect their rights as well under the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 6713.

In reaction to Martires’ claims, Mangahas posted on the website of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) her side of the story.

“Ombudsman Martires knew that as a public official with expertise and mandate on the issues raised, he was speaking face-to-face with a journalist with a legitimate journalistic purpose, on a matter of public interest. The conversation occurred in a public space and even with the full knowledge and in full view of his own personnel from the Office of the Ombudsman,” the PCIJ Executive Director said.

“PCIJ respects the views of Ombudsman Martires on this matter but respectfully insists, too, that all he has to do now is release President Duterte’s SALN for 2018, pending the long-awaited issuance of his new guidelines, and consistent with the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman as ‘the Protector of the People,’” she added.

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