Sotto: Duterte must revamp Bureau of Corrections

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte should order a full revamp of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) following reports that some convicts involved in high-profile cases had been released, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Saturday, August 31.

“PRRD must revamp the entire officialdom of the BuCor. This travesty of justice is condemnable!” Sotto said on Twitter on Saturday morning.

Sotto made the call a day after Senator Panfilo Lacson revealed that several of those convicted in the 1997 murder of the Chiong sisters in Cebu had been released. 

In 1997, sisters Marijoy, 21, and Jacqueline Chiong, 23, disappeared while waiting for their ride home outside a mall in Cebu City. Marijoy's heavily-decomposed body was found but Jacqueline's body, to this day, remained missing. (WATCH: 'Give Up Tomorrow' documentary on Rappler)

In 1999, A Cebu court convicted Francisco Juna "Paco" Larrañaga, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caño, Ariel Balansag, Josman Aznar, James Andrew Uy, and James Anthony Uy. The Supreme Court upheld this decision 5 years later in 2005.

According to a report by GMA,  BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon denied signing the release orders for the Chiong murder convicts.

Following the reported release of the high-profile convicts, Lacson posed what he called "two interesting questions" on Twitter on Saturday afternoon:  "How much does government spend to arrest, prosecute and convict a drug trafficker?  How much does a convict pay to be issued a release order?"

'Where to next?'

Apparently referring to Faeldon, Sotto, in another tweet, wondered aloud why “this official” was always hounded by “scandals” wherever he went.

“Bakit lahat ng malipatan nitong official na ito may iskandalo? Saan Kaya siya sunod ililipat (How come all the agencies that this official is moved to gets involved in a scandal? Where will he be moved next)?" he said. (READ: No to corruption? Duterte's controversial reappointees)

Faeldon first served the Duterte administration as Customs commissioner in 2016. Faeldon had vowed to institute reform in the agency but in August 2017, he and the BOC were thrust into the spotlight after the discovery of P6.4-billion worth of smuggled shabu from China. (TIMELINE: How P6.4-B worth of shabu was smuggled into PH from China)

Lacson included him in the list of alleged corrupt BOC officials and personnel during a privilege speech in August 23, 2017.  He accused Faeldon and other former military officers at the BOC of accepting bribes, including a P100-million "welcome gift" when he assumed office.

Faeldon resigned but was later appointed to the BuCor, succeeding Senator Ronald dela Rosa. Concerns over the early release of unqualified convicts under the Good Conduct Allowance Time law cropped up after the Department of Justice said last week that convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez was up for early release.

Public outrage over the prospect, however, prompted the DOJ to backtrack on the move and to temporarily suspend the processing of convicts' GCTA pending a brief review of the implementation of the law. ([OPINION] The punitive turn: The bungled discourse of the GCTA law)

Probe BuCor official's death 

Meanwhile, Senator Leila de Lima called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to conduct a thorough probe into the killing of a BuCor official especially as the case may be linked to the botched release of Sanchez.

De Lima made the statement on Saturday, following the death of Ruperto Traya Jr, BuCor’s chief administrative officer 3, in Muntinlupa City on August 27. Traya, assigned at the BuCor’s Inmate’s Document Processing Division, was reportedly shot dead by motorcycle-riding men.

Traya's division was reportedly in charge of collating and processing all paperwork on the recomputation of the credits of around 11,000 convicts’ GCTA under Republic Act No. 10592 or GCTA law.

 “Kahina-hinala ang tunay na motibo sa krimeng ito, lalo pa't  mainit ang isyu ngayon ukol sa implementasyon ng GCTA. Marapat lang na magkaroon ng masusing imbestigasyon upang agarang matukoy at mapanagot ang mga salarin dito,” she said.

(The motive behind this crime is suspicious, especially as the issue on the implementation of the GCTA is very hot now. It's but proper that there should be a careful investigation so immediately track down the culprits and hold then accountable.)

“Mayroon bang impormasyon na alam na si Mr Traya na maaring makakaapekto sa usapin tungkol sa GCTA Law? Isa lamang ito sa tanong ng marami nating kababayan na nagaantay ng kasagutan,” she added.

(Did Mr Traya know any information that may affect discussions on the GCTA law? This is only one of many questions that many of our countrymen want answered.)