PH gears for manhunt of over 900 heinous crime convicts

Lian Buan
PH gears for manhunt of over 900 heinous crime convicts
Duterte is offering P1 million in exchange for the heads of heinous crime convicts 'dead or alive.' His men are quick to clarify that the President does not mean it literally.

MANILA, Philippines – Heinous crime convicts previously released on good conduct time allowance (GCTA) have until Thursday, September 19, to surrender to authorities – or be hunted by a police force with a track record of brutality.

“After September 19, those who have not turned themselves over, they’ll be now tracked and arrested by our Philippine National Police (PNP) and of course from the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor),” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told Rappler in an interview Wednesday night, September 18.

As of 5 am Wednesday, 964 of the 1,914 have already surrendered, according to BuCor spokesperson Eduardo del Rosario.

September 19 is the last day of the 15-day ultimatum given by President Rodrigo Duterte for 1,914 heinous crime convicts to surrender, following the belated revision of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10592. The IRR now excludes heinous crimes from GCTA coverage.

The revision was a tall order from the President, obediently followed by Año’s Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s Department of Justice (DOJ).

There is no court order for the rearrest, only a verbal order from Duterte which was reinforced by Guevarra who cited two past Supreme Court cases that ordered the rearrest of convicts wrongly freed on GCTA.

Legal issues hound this verbal order to rearrest.

But the Duterte government is not new to following the President’s verbal commands.

“Each minute, each hour, each day that you refuse to turn yourself in, is a commission of an offense and for that, law enforcement agencies can arrest you even without a warrant,” Guevarra said.

Flawed list

The order to rearrest is being carried out based on lists that have since been proven to be truly flawed.

The PNP has rearrested convicts who were not charged with heinous crimes. A list submitted to the Senate also included Janet Lim Napoles when she is clearly nowhere near to being qualified for an early release now, having been convicted only in December 2018. (READ: IN NUMBERS The freed 1,914 heinous crime convicts)

“We will release a new list so you will be informed if you’re really included, and for those who are included and they have to surrender after September 19, and they refuse to do so…you are committing the offense of evasion of sentence, so there is reason, legal basis to have you arrested because that is a continuing offense,” Guevarra said in a mix of Filipino and English.

How the police will arrest

Duterte said on Tuesday, September 17, that he will give a P1-million bounty for the heads of heinous crime convicts who are refusing to surrender, “dead or alive.”

“Basta ako, sinabi ko, I will just set the timeline and then the P1-million prize is available to those who can capture them, dead or alive, but maybe dead would be a better option,” Duterte said on Tuesday inside Malacañang.

(I said I will just set the timeline and then the P1-million prize is available to those who can capture them, dead or alive, but maybe dead would be a better option.)

But as usual, his men were quick to the draw, clarifying what the President meant.

“Dead or alive’ should not be taken literally,” Guevarra told reporters.

Guevarra added: “But they may use reasonable force if the subject of the arrest violently resists and endangers the security of the arresting officer.”

Brutality

The PNP under Duterte has had a track record of brutality, with the leadership sanctioning about 250 cops for abuse in the anti-drug campaign. The PNP admits to killing more than 5,500 drug suspects in police operations.

Police chief General Oscar Albayalde had earlier said that if convicts resist arrest, they will be shot.

The revision of the IRR that excludes heinous crime convicts from GCTA is “vulnerable to serious legal challenge,” as issues of equal protection and executive overreach may potentially be brought up.

Guevarra, one of the chiefs of the revision, has a uniform confident answer to those pointing out loopholes: “Let the court decide on it.” – Rappler.com 

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.