Drilon: DOJ has legal basis to seek re-arrest of 1,914 heinous crime prisoners

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon reiterated on Tuesday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) could seek re-arrest of the 1,914 heinous crime convicts, including three convicts for the rape-slay of the Chiong sisters in 1997.

"The DOJ has valid and legal reasons to seek re-arrest of the 1,914 prisoners serving a life sentence but were wrongly released by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor)," Drilon said.

"The law should be interpreted to give justice to the victims. An interpretation that unqualifiedly and unjustly favors the oppressor, rather than the victims, may cause people's trust in our justice system to erode," he stressed.

"It was clearly established that the procedures were not followed and on that basis and in accordance with the case of People vs. Tan, they can be re-arrested. Let them question it in the Supreme Court," Drilon said.

"Ultimately, it is the Supreme Court that will decide on this," he added.

On Tuesday, the Malacanang ordered the DOJ to study the possibility of re-arresting those disqualified by GCTA law but were nevertheless released, such as those convicted of heinous crime. It also pointed to the case that was earlier cited by Drilon, People vs. Tan, where the Supreme Court ordered the re-arrest of a person who was erroneously released by a jail warden based on a GCTA, as a good legal basis for the re-arrest.

The Court in that case stated that "the prisoner's re-arrest would not place him twice in jeopardy because his re-incarceration is merely a continuation of the penalty that he had not completely served due to the erroneous act of the warden; it is not a new or subsequent conviction. Neither would his re-arrest deprive him of liberty and without due process of law, because he was not yet entitled to liberty at the time he was released."

Drilon noted that the release of these prisoners were erroneous due to the wrong computation of good conduct as none of their bad conducts were reflected in their carpetas, and some of the release orders were signed by officials who are not authorized under the law to do so.

Under the 2015 Department Order No. 953 issued by then acting justice secretary and now Supreme Court Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, the release of prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua or high risk inmates, including former Mayor Antonio Sanchez, shall only be implemented with the prior approval of the justice secretary.

The said department order, he stressed, is in keeping with the provision of Republic Act 10575, or the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013, which clearly mandates that "DOJ shall retain authority over the power to review, reverse, revise, or modify the decisions of the BuCor in the exercise of its regulatory or quasi-judicial functions."

The justice secretary admitted he did not approve the release of the prisoners nor did it go through his office.

The DOJ may also seek a warrant of arrest from the court, Drilon said.

"They can order the re-arrest of these prisoners, they can go to the courts that convicted these heinous crimes prisoners and seek a warrant of arrest," Drilon said.

"But what is important is we use the law to give justice to the victims, not to side with the criminals. We can show it to the public by excluding those sentenced to heinous crimes from the benefits of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law and by re-arresting these prisoners who were wrongly released," Drilon said.

Drilon said he was saddened that corrupt officials are exploiting the grant of good conduct time allowance, which has been part of the country's reformative justice system.

On Tuesday's hearing, it was revealed that the carpeta of Sanchez listed no violation despite being caught smuggling drugs in 2006 and 2010, not wearing the prison uniform, among other violations. "Either there was corruption or there was negligence because it is obvious that there was a lot of violations," Drilon said.

Source: Senate of the Philippines