THE Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) quietly released more than 22,000 prisoners for good behavior over the past five years, according to news reports. Nearly 2,000 of them were facing long prison terms for murder, rape, drug offenses, parricide, kidnapping and arson.
Three of the seven accused in the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in 1997 have been granted early release in August 2019 according to documents of the Bureau of Corrections. They were Josmar Aznar, Alberto Caño and Ariel Balansag who were released on Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA), a legal provision that shortens jail time for good behaviour.
Some administration men attempted to pull a fast one for the release of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, client of chief Presidential Legal Adviser and spokesman Salvador Panelo. Sanchez was convicted in 1993 for the rape-slaying of Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of his friend, Allan Gomez, both students of the University of the Philippines, Los Baños.
The target date for the release of the convicted killer and rapist was on August 20, 2019, according to the children of Sanchez who were in the Bucor to fetch him because his release was already allegedly signed by Bucor Chief Faeldon. But because of the public outrage on Sanchez’s surreptitious release, the plan of Sanchez’s “friends” went awry; they had to abort the release of the convicted mayor.
Harriet Demetriou, the judge who sentenced the former Calauan mayor to seven 40-year prison terms urged President Duterte to investigate the attempt to free the rape-murder convict, from Salvador Panelo, who was Sanchez’s legal counsel, Bucor Chief Nicanor Faeldon, and Sen. Ronald de la Rosa, Faeldon’s predecessor.
The release of almost 2,000 who were facing long prison terms for murder, rape, drug offenses, parricide, kidnapping and arson, and the shameless attempt to release the convicted former Calauan mayor in gross violation of RA 10592 which excludes those charged with heinous crimes, is a mockery of the law and is an assault on our entire justice system. It also endangers the lives of the complainants and their witnesses who have now to contend with hundreds of murderers who are now scot-free. Only the naïve and the gullible will not believe that money did not change hands when these convicts facing heinous crimes were released from the Bucor.
However, I disagree with Judge Demetriou that Panelo, Faeldon and De la Rosa should face Senate investigation. Considering that De la Rosa is a senator and that most senators are marionettes of President Duterte, nothing will come out of the investigation except a whitewash.
I propose that for the truth to come out, an independent body should be created composed of the national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the national chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), and a retired justice of the Supreme Court of proven probity, integrity and independence.
Only an impartial, independent and credible investigation will satisfy a cynical public that has grown weary with years of political disillusionment and unfulfilled expectations.