By Mario Casayuran and Vanne Terrazola
The questionable release of 48 drug convicts from the national penitentiary has put the anti-illegal drugs campaign of President Duterte on the spot, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson declared on Saturday.
“It is the biggest irony that while the government has spent so much time, energy and resources to build up intelligence, gather evidence leading to the arrest of big time drug traffickers, especially Chinese drug lords, then spend more to prosecute and convict those arrested and charged (convicted and released),” he said.
“(But) here is (Bucor Director) Faeldon and whoever else was responsible, by the stroke of their pens would release at least 48 drug convicts out of the 1,914 heinous crime convicts under questionable circumstances,” Lacson pointed out.
“If the President does not take drastic action on this latest caper of an official (Faeldon) who was recycled in spite of questionable actions committed in his previous assignments like the P6.4 billion ‘shabu’ (crystal meth) smuggling that got away under mysterious circumstances, on top of the organized ‘tara’ (pay off) on smuggled goods, we should start thinking if there is seriousness in this administration’s much touted war against drugs and corruption midway into his six-year term,” he added.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) likewise expressed disappointment over the release of the drug convicts they had worked so hard to nail.
The recent developments prompted Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief to ask aloud whether the Duterte administration is serious in its drug campaign with the release of the drug convicts by the BuCor.
There are reports that the BuCor has released about 22,049 prisoners since Republic Act 10592 took effect in 2013 reportedly on account of good conduct.
But while the law excluded those convicted of heinous crimes from benefitting from the reduced prison time, 1,914 prisoners convicted of heinous crimes were allowed to walk free. Forty eight of those released were drug convicts.
The prisoner release were stopped only after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced that former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez is one of those who would benefit from RA 10592 resulting in public outrage.
Sanchez is serving seven counts of rape with homicide for the rape-slay of University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez in 1993. Each count carries a maximum prison term of 40 years.
“Bakit lahat ng malipatan nitong official na ito may iskandalo? Saan kaya siya sunod ililipat Why is it every agency that this official gets assigned to, there is a scandal? Where will he be transferred next?)” Senate President Vicente Sotto III posted on Twitter, referring to Faeldon, who was Bureau of Customs (BOC) chief when the P6.4-billion illegal drugs slipped into the country from China in May 2017.
”I don’t know what to say sa galit ko! Pinalabas ni Faeldon ang P6.4 [billion] worth of illegal drugs sa BOC, ngayon naman, pinalabas niya isang rapist sa BuCor. Bakit na sa gobyerno pa itong tao na ito (I don’t know what to say. I’m so mad! Faeldon allowed the P6.4-billion worth of Illegal drugs to slip through the BOC, now he is releasing a rapist from the BuCor. Why is this man still in government?),” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian fumed on Twitter.
A son of Sanchez revealed they were informed that the convicted mayor was to be released on August 20. But they were told on the day they were supposed to fetch the Sanchez patriarch that his release was put on hold.
There are reports that Faeldon signed the release papers of Sanchez. The document, dated August 20, 2019, reportedly stated that Sanchez already spent the maximum penalty because of the retroactive application of RA10592, which allowed the deduction of his prison term due to good conduct.
Faeldon denied having signed a release order for Sanchez.
Lacson on Wednesday raised the possibility that corruption has also reached the BuCor.
“From release of smuggled goods to release of convicts. Has the Bureau of Customs ‘tara system’ migrated to the Bureau of Corrections?” Lacson tweeted.
Sotto, who sought a review of the deduction of Sanchez’ jail sentence called for a revamp in the BuCor.
“PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) must revamp the entire officialdom of the BuCor. This travesty of Justice is condemnable!” he said.
While in China, Sen. Christopher Go told media that President Duterte had no knowledge of the release of prisoners convicted of heinous crimes who are excluded from availing of the privilege under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA).
Go said the President will demand explanation from officials who facilitated the early release.