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

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019   •   541

(L-R) former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Leila de Lima

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has requested detained Senator Leila de Lima and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas to explain or clarify in writing the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) that they drafted for the law which increased good conduct time allowance (GCTA) given to inmates.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires noted in his letter dated Sept. 6 that the Republic Act 10592 which expanded the GCTA excludes recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes from its coverage.

Martires wants De Lima and Roxas to explain why the IRR they drafted only disqualifies the following from benefiting from the law:

  • an accused who is recidivist, as defined under Article 14 (9), Chapter III, Book 1 of the Revised Penal Code;
  • an accused who has been convicted previously twice or more than times of any crime; and
  • an accused who, upon being summoned for the execution of his sentence, has failed to surrender voluntarily before a court of law.

The Ombudsman requested De Lima and Roxas to submit a written explanation or clarification within three days 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.”

Earlier, Martires ordered the suspension of 27 Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials over the release of nearly 2,000 heinous crime convicts for good conduct credits. Said officers will be suspended for six months without pay for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.

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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