CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines –Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez, among the principal authors of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law, has advised former convicts who availed of the GCTA law to wait for a warrant of arrest for them so they could go back to the correctional facility where they were detained serving their conviction.
As the GCTA law is being investigated in the Senate, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered heinous crimes convicts who were freed under the terms of this law to surrender to authorities within 15 days. After the deadline, those who do not surrender will be hunted down as fugitives, Duterte said.
However, Rodriguez said, the word of the president cannot force the surrender or arrest of a freed convicted person.
He said only an arrest warrant issued by a judge of the court where a convicted person was handed the sentence could compel an inmate to return to jail.
Earlier, the Department of Justice said that its records show that 1,914 heinous crimes inmates were among the total 22,049 inmates released since 2013 when the GCTA law was passed.
"Persons deprived of liberty who were released on the basis of the GCTA must not surrender nor be arrested as only an arrest warrant could have the power to return them to the penitentiary," Rodriguez said.
Meanwhile in the Northern Mindanao, the Police Regional Office 10 announced the surrender of Larry Canunay, a convict of a heinous crime who availed of the GCTA. The 49-year-old Canunay turned himself in Friday, September 6.
Regional Police Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Mardy Hortilloza said that Canunay voluntarily surrendered to Barangay Kagawad Nino Tabukalaon of Barangay Lurugan Valencia City, Bukidnon. The surrender was coordinated with the Valencia City Police Station under Lieutenant Colonel Surki A. Sereñas and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Bukidnon.
Based on police records, Canunay was convicted of rape and arson charges. He was sentenced on March 22, 1991.
"Canunay availed of the GCTA law and was released last March 22, 2019, from Davao prison and penal farm thru the released order signed by JCSSupt Melencio S Faustino, Regional Superintendent," Hortilloza said.
"Canunay will be turned over to Davao prison and penal farm upon the specific directives from the authorities regarding the GCTA convicts disposition," Hortilloza said.
Seven other former convicts surrendered to the police, but the Northern Mindanao regional police office did not give out details.
In the case of Canunay, who surrendered to the police, Rodriguez said “there is no legal basis for them to be brought back to jail. These convicts should be advised by jail officials to wait for their warrant of arrest.”
“They (freed convicts) are not escapees. They were released legally,” Rodriguez said, adding, “the Department of Justice should already direct its prosecutors all over the country to go to the court of origin and file the motion for issuance of warrant of arrest.”
Regional Police chief Brigadier General Rafael P Santiago Jr has already instructed the commanders of every police station in Northern Mindanao to prepare for the tracking and arrest of the released convicts. He said this was the instruction of PNP chief General Oscar D Albayalde.
"We will double our efforts to arrest and put them back in prison these subject personalities if they will not surrender on the specified period mentioned by the president to them." Santiago said. – Rappler.com