By Mario Casayuran
A measure giving the Department of Justice (DOJ) stronger control over the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and other attached agencies may soon be crafted in the wake of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law controversy, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Saturday.
Drilon said the bill either be crafted by him of Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra.
BuCor is now in the eye of the storm over the release of 1,914 convicts serving time for heinous crimes through the controversial GCTA law.
Drilon said the BuCor has become “too powerful” and is now being blamed for the corrupt practices in the agency.
He said the bill, once enacted into law, would give the DOJ secretary stronger control and supervision over BuCor and other attached agencies.
“There are a number of critical agencies over which the Department has limited to zero control,” Drilon said in a radio interview.
The lack of supervisory powers of the DOJ secretary over his attached agencies surfaced after the release since 2014 by BuCor of the 1,914 convicts, including Chinese drug lords, and the aborted release of former Calauan (Laguna) mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was sentenced to seven counts of reclusion perpetua over the rape slay of University of the Philippines student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend Allan Gomez.
Drilon, a former Justice secretary during the Cory Aquino presidency, said the only time the DOJ secretary and BuCor director meet is during congressional budget hearings.
Drilon tagged as pure politics attempts to put down detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima, and and former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Manuel Roxas, a former senator, for crafting the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10592 (or GCTA law).
Drilon said RA10592 was enacted in 2013 and removed DOJ’s control over BuCor, except for its administrative supervision.
Earlier, Guevarra called for a review of the law in light of corruption allegations in the bureau.
“Noong ako ay Justice secretary, ang pinapa-approve sa akin yung pagbili ng munggo sa Muntinlupa. Ang sabi ko, hindi ako naging secretary of Justice para lang mag-approve ng pagkain (When I was the DOJ secretary, the approval for the purchase of beans intended for Muntinlupa penitentiary convicts had to pass through me. I told myself, I did not become the DOJ secretary to approve food for the penitentiary),” Drilon recalled.
“This is one of the loopholes that we should look into. The corrupt officials in the BuCor took advantage of the law that gave too much power to the bureau to the extent that there is no more check and balance,” Drilon said.
Under RA 10592, Drilon said the BuCor director has become all too powerful.
“Ang sa akin, ang kailangan ay stronger contro ng DOJl, dahilan, in effect, naging independent agency ang BuCor director – walang nag-supervise and walang check and balance.
(In so far as I’m concerned, there is a need for stronger control by DOJ because the BuCor has, in effect, become an independent agency. There is no more supervision and no more check and balance),” he added. “The Justice secretary is left in the dark because he has no direct control and supervision of the bureau,” he added.
Drilon said that while there is a department order requiring the approval of the Justice secretary on the release of heinous crime convicts, it is clear that it was ignored a number of times.
“We should give the DOJ direct control and supervision of the BuCor consistent with the Department of Order 953 that required that the release of heinous crime convicts must have prior approval of the Justice secretary. This is a form of control but it is only a department order. We need to amend the law to provide a legal basis for this,” Drilon said.
Aside from BuCor, Drilon cited the Public Attorneys’ Office (PAO), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Bureau of Immigration (BI), where the DOJ has no control over.
He also lamented that the DOJ secretary does not have supervisory and control over the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) whose chief has become an investigator and out up a medical laboratory following the rise of dengue infections in the country.
He said it is unfair to put the blame on detained Senator De Lima, saying that the former Justice secretary only interpreted the GCTA law, which, he admitted, is vague.
Drilon said he would object to the committee report if it unfairly blames De Lima for the GCTA mess.
“It is clear that Senator De Lima was trying to interpret the law that the Congress passed, which was vague. Senator De Lima is not at fault. She was exercising her best judgment in interpreting the law,” Drilon said.
“Nakakalungkot na siya yung pinupuntirya. Ang nangyari sa BuCor ngayon ay hindi pagkakamali ni Sen. De Lima (It’s lamentable that Senator De Lima is being targeted. What is happening at the BuCor is not the fault of Senator De Lima),” he added.