MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte has fired Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon amid public outrage over revelations in the Senate hearings on the Good Conduct Time Allowance law.
"I decided late last night and my orders are, one, that I am demanding the resignation of Faeldon immediately," Duterte said in a press conference Wednesday night, September 4.
"Faeldon has to go because Faeldon disobeyed my order," said Duterte, to explain his decision.
Duterte said his order to Faeldon and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra was "no releases until further orders by higher authority,” given public outcry over the possible early release of rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez.
Though Sanchez was never released, Duterte is angry at Faeldon for supposedly still insisting in public that Sanchez would still be subject to recomputation.
The President wanted Faeldon to “echo” his orders in order to satisfy public clamor.
“Ang problema niya, kinabukasan (The problem is, the next day), he came up with a statement with his own computation. Kung sinabi lang niya ang sinabi ko, eh di tapos na (If he only said what I said, it would have been finished),” said Duterte.
“May apoy na nga eh (There was a fire), I was trying to find an extinguisher,” he also said.
Faeldon, however, has been reappointed twice by Duterte, despite figuring in a major drug smuggling scandal in 2017.
Asked if he would be reappointed once more, Duterte played coy.
"Tanungin n'yo siya kung saan niya gusto pumunta.... Kung sabi niya gusto niya palitan si Secretary Esperon, eh 'di sabihin mo, 'Usap tayo,'" Duterte said.
(Ask him where he wants to go.... If he says he wants to replace Secretary Esperon, then say, 'Let's talk.')
Investigate other BuCor officials
Faeldon issued a statement on Wednesday night, more than an hour after the President's announcement.
"My commander-in-chief/appointing authority has spoken. I am a marine and a marine does as he is told. I most humbly bow to my commander-in-chief's order without any hard feelings," Faeldon said.
Duterte said he would ask the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate possible corruption or abuse of power related to the release of heinous crime convicts.
Everyone in the committee who played a part in Sanchez's aborted release would be subject to investigation.
"With Faeldon out, I am ordering all that has had the opportunity to be in that committee, all of them in the BuCor, to report to me and to the secretary of justice. In the meantime, I will not suspend them but they will be investigated. This goes straight to the Obmudsman. There was an admission they were remiss in their duties," Duterte said.
In a text message to reporters on Wednesday night, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said he is "working on this now."
"I just had an initial discussion with some officers who will be assigned to conduct the investigation," Martires said.
Faeldon had just been grilled in two Senate hearings about his role in the possible early release of rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez and other infamous prison inmates.
It was revealed in the hearing Monday, September 2, that Faeldon had greenlighted a process for Sanchez’s release but stopped it due to public outcry and President Rodrigo Duterte making a stand against the convict.
The BuCor chief insisted he just followed the GCTA law and the advice of career BuCor lawyers. The manual on the implementation of the GCTA law interprets the law as allowing even heinous crime convicts to benefit from early release due to “good behavior.”
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo had said Duterte would wait for the GCTA law hearings to wrap up before deciding on the fate of Faeldon and other BuCor officials.
Duterte had been closely monitoring the hearings, said the spokesman.
Before the Sanchez and GCTA law controversy, Faeldon was thought to enjoy Duterte’s trust since he had been reappointed twice despite figuring in a major drug smuggling scandal.
Faeldon was Duterte’s first Bureau of Customs chief. It was under his time when P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China was smuggled into the country. Lawmakers had suspected connivance between BOC officials and smugglers. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) charged Faeldon for the illegal shipment, but the Department of Justice cleared Faeldon. Duterte then transferred him to the Office of Civil Defense. (READ: LIST: No to corruption? Duterte's controversial reappointees)
When another trusted Duterte man, Ronald dela Rosa, decided to run for senator, the President picked Faeldon to take his place as BuCor chief.
Duterte has said he was confident in Faeldon’s honesty and integrity since it was supposedly Faeldon who discovered cigarette maker Mighty Corporation’s use of fake stamps which led the company to pay the government P30 billion to settle its taxes. – with a report from Lian Buan/Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.