THE Senate committee on justice and human rights hearing into the release from jail of convicted persons just created more questions than answers.
It was in that hearing Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, where Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Nicanor Faeldon confirmed second-hand reports that three of the seven men convicted for the kidnapping and illegal detention of the Chiong sisters in Cebu have been released.
Faeldon said he did not sign the release orders for Josman Aznar, Ariel Balansag and Alberto Caño. Correctional Institute for Women Superintendent Maria Fe Marquez did it. Was it correct procedure to release the three based on Marquez’s signature? Under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) provision in the amended Revised Penal Law, only the BuCor director general or the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology chief are authorized to order the release.
Why didn’t the release order reach Faeldon? After he learned of it, did he require Marquez to explain? Did he sanction her? Will those released be re-arrested? How about the convicts’ victims? What do you tell them?
It might appear like a procedural snafu but it is a matter of justice for those they victimized that the three should finish their sentence.
The three convicts are among the seven found guilty for the kidnapping, rape and murder of the Chiong sisters. Marijoy Chiong’s body was found two days after they were kidnapped. Jacqueline has not been found and is presumed to be dead.
After learning of the release of the three, Thelma Chiong, mother of the two, said she fears for her life as she does not know where the convicts are and their plans. This sentiment makes her and her family victims all over again.
The Senate committee hearing looked into the release of 1,914 persons convicted for heinous crimes under the GCTA system since 2014. We know there was a major foul-up in implementing the GCTA. The challenge is for the government to correct the error and let officials face the consequences.
If the Senate hearing will not result in administrative action for Faeldon, BuCor officials and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, and the re-arrest of those who should not have been released, those victimized by the nearly 2,000 released convicts will become victims again.
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Novena masses for the Our Lady of Peňafrancia, patroness of Bicol, will begin this Friday, September 6, at 6:15 p.m. at the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish - Capitol, N. Escario St., Cebu City.
Masses will run for nine days or until September 14, to be followed the next day, September 15, Sunday, with the fiesta mass to be celebrated by Bicolano priests. Weekday masses will start at 6:15 p.m., while Saturday and Sunday masses will be at 5:30 p.m.
The Bicol Association of Cebu Inc. is inviting devotees to the Our Lady of Peňafrancia to join the nine-day novena masses at the Capitol parish.