Cabaero: Major foul-up

Beyond 30

THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has a lot of explaining to do on how inmates convicted of heinous crimes were freed under the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said those inmates who were freed should be rearrested and sent back to prison. What a major foul-up at the DOJ and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

There must be someone in the DOJ or BuCor under it who got excited by the law and released inmates, otherwise not qualified, without going through the process of verifying the correctness of their actions. As to what got him or her excited is a question that can have many malicious answers.

Even three of those convicted for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in 1997 have been granted early release. Thelma Chiong, mother of the two, said she now fears for her life following the release of her daughters’ killers.

The GCTA, an amendment of the Revised Penal Code, shortens jail times for good behavior. Chiong said the killers of her daughters do not deserve the privilege of early release and that only a presidential pardon can save them from their sentences.

The release order for the three Chiong convicts was reportedly signed by a certain “Marquez.” BuCor Chief Nicanor Faeldon denied signing their documents. Faeldon should be the last person to sign off an inmate before release but this “Marquez” was excited to implement the GCTA on the convicts.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevara has to explain how this illegal release of convicted persons, about 2,000 of them, happened under his watch. The buck stops with him.

* * *

Some people might think it is funny or a game, but sending anonymous messages that accuse journalists of being sympathetic with the rebels can have deadly consequences.

I join the media organizations, including the Philippine Press Institute, in denouncing the red-tagging of Mindanao-based journalists Leonardo Vicente “Cong” Corrales and Froilan Gallardo. Red-tagging has been defined in court cases as the naming or accusing of persons or organizations of being left-leaning, subversive, communist or terrorist, as a tactic to instill fear in those perceived to be enemies or threats of the State.

Corrales, Gallardo, a religious leader and a human rights lawyer were branded as communists in a flyer attributed to a certain “Black Mamba” of the “MAT-NMR Press Club Chapter.” It said Corrales has a P1 million bounty on his head while the others have links to communist rebels.

The press group denounced the red-tagging as “baseless and irresponsible.”

While the flyer named Corrales and Gallardo, the threat extends to other community journalists who know that their proximity to the issues they cover may leave them open to such accusations.

In the crosshairs are not only Corrales and Gallardo but also other community journalists who do not enjoy the same protection as their colleagues in national and bigger organizations.


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