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All Bilibid returnees will be processed by March – DOJ

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday, January 15, that the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) would complete processing all Bilibid convict returnees by March.

This new date places the total detention period of some returnees at 6 months.

Guevarra said that the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) asked for the "grace period," because "they said they don't want to make any mistake again."

"I said okay, we'll give you that grace period that you are asking, on one condition, and that condition is during the interim, while the PDLs (Persons Deprived of Liberty) are waiting for you to process their papers, make sure they are properly fed, they are properly accommodated, and they are safe," said Guevarra.

Guevarra, relying on an earlier report by BuCor Chief Director General Gerald Bantag, said there remain 410 returnees at the New Bilibid Prison's Minimum Security Compound, and 24 at the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) – down from the 2,352 former convicts who surrendered based on President Rodrigo Duterte's ultimatum to heinous crime convicts.

It was not immediately clear if the BuCor has already segregated the convicts who were more likely to remain incarcerated because they were convicted of heinous crimes. The DOJ's belated revision of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA)  law's internal rules disqualifies for release those convicted of heinous crimes.

Dire conditions 

Rappler learned that some of the returnees who remained in the NBP are old and sickly. They are still sleeping in the NBP's covered court.

At least 5 returnees have died in NBP custody by the end of 2019.

Returnees suffered harrowing conditions from the day of their turnover to Bilibid, where they slept on the road, until they were all placed inside the Minimum Security Compound.  Once there, they scrambled for space in the covered court or the visiting area.

Guevarra acknowledged the "inadequate facilities" of Bilibid but stopped short of taking responsibility for the deaths, saying one of the 5 who died had a pre-existing ailment.

Guevarra said that if returnees "believe they unnecessarily suffered," then they are free to sue.Rappler.com

Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.

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