MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte wants almost 2,000 heinous crime convicts released due to the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law to surrender to the government for a "recomputation" of their benefits under the measure.
"I will addess myself to all those released from this law, 1,700 of you. You surrender and have yourselves registered with the BuCor (Bureau of Corrections)," Duterte said on Wednesday, September 4, during a hastily called press conference.
"I will give you 15 days liberty provided you make yourself available anytime that you will be called for investigation to have a recomputation, or if there is an investigation of corruption then you cooperate fully," he added.
Duterte said police will not need an arrest warrant to catch the convicts and that anyone implementing his order "will be treated as exercising good faith."
A total of 1,914 heinous crime convicts have been released since 2013 when the GCTA law was passed, according to government figures.
Disobeying this order would mean the former prisoner will be considered a "fugitive of justice" and will be treated as a "criminal." He said he would give a P1-million reward for the capture, "dead or alive," of any released heinous crime convict.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año confirmed Duterte's order.
“They are given 15 days to show up and submit for investigation to recompute the GCTA. After the deadline, the PNP will track and arrest those who will not surrender theirselves to authorities," he said in a text message to Rappler.
Duterte acknowledged legal views that his order may be illegal, given that Article 99 of the Revised Penal Code states that once time allowance for good conduct is granted, it cannot be revoked.
He said he is taking responsibility for the order and again promised to resign. He even said he is ready to be impeached for it.
"I take full responsibility for this. All the consequences related to this decison will be mine and mine alone. I am ready for an impeachment. I am ready to resign if warranted," he said.
But if convicts "surrender in good faith," Duterte promised not to send them to prison "because there was really a release order."
In the Senate hearing on the controversy, lawmakers spoke of a "GCTA for sale" modus operandi in which government officials would dole out time allowances to certain prisoners in exchange for money.
"I suspect that corruption was present there. Ibig sabihin, baka 'yung iba, baka binili (Meaning, maybe the others were bought). That's why it's important we rearrest and reinvestigate," said Duterte.
In the same press conference, the President announced he has fired BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon who greenlighted Sanchez's release but stopped the process before the controversial inmate could walk free. – with a report from Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that the President set a P10-million bounty for the capture of any freed heinous crime convict. This has been corrected.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.