MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said sacked Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon is "quite likely" administratively liable for the release of 1,914 heinous crime convicts based on good conduct time allowance (GCTA).
"Administratively, quite likely. Administratively," Guevarra said in response to the question of CNN Philippines anchor Pinky Webb on whether Faeldon was liable during an interview on Wednesday morning, September 18.
Administrative liability comes with the penalty of either suspension, dismissal, and/or perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
"Break the law not in the sense that they willfully broke the law as far as I'm concerned, because that's how they understood how the law should be applied. But it's not the proper way to do it, I cannot really make a judgment as to whether they violated the law because they proceeded from an understanding that these persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) are included," said Guevarra.
Guevarra was referring to an old interpretation of the law that GCTA under Republic Act No. 10592 applies to all types of prisoners, including heinous crime convicts.
Guevarra and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año have released new Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) that categorically excludes heinous crime convicts from GCTA, responding to public outcry on the aborted release of convicted murderer and rapist Antonio Sanchez. (READ: DOJ's new IRR of GCTA law 'open to serious legal challenge')
How about Bato?
Guevarra said the government cannot be tied by the mistake of its agents, meaning BuCor chiefs like Faeldon whose interpretation of the law became the basis to release heinous crime convicts.
"Well, not only him (Faeldon), but all those BuCor chiefs [who] interpreted the law that way," said Guevarra.
Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa also released heinous crime convicts during his time.
But Guevarra shied away when pressed whether he thinks Dela Rosa is also administratively liable.
"I can't answer that question categorically because the respective factual milieu and justification for their acts may not necessarily be the same," Guevarra told Rappler in a text message upon follow-ups.
It was Guevarra who told the Senate blue ribbon committee that Dela Rosa wanted to waive a Department of Justice rule that all releases of reclusion perpetua inmates must be approved by the secretary of justice.
When Rappler pointed that out, Guevarra said, "As this may be the subject of a legal action in the future, I find it prudent to reserve my comment."