Secured by President Rodrigo Duterte’s bulletproof trust vest, dismissed Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief director general Nicanor Faeldon admitted Monday his failure to abide by the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) Order 953 on the release of inmates who have committed heinous crimes.
DoJ Order 953, or the Rules or Procedure in the Release of National Prisoners with Expired Sentence, states that the Justice secretary possesses the authority to release inmates sentenced to life imprisonment and not the BuCor chief.
Faeldon claimed he was not knowledgeable of the order from the BuCor’s mother agency. He admitted to have committed negligence on that matter.
His statement was in response to the query made by Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon who asked if he was aware that he needed prior approval from the Justice secretary before the BuCor could release detainees sentenced with reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.
But BuCor Legal Division chief Atty. Frederic Anthony Santos countered Faeldon and claimed his former chief was aware of the order.
Santos, however, argued that the order was repealed upon the implementation of Republic Act 10575, or the Bureau of Correction Act of 2013.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, however, pressed Santos on the release of a Chinese prisoner in Leyte where the same department order was invoked.
Sotto claimed the BuCor complied with the order when it sought clearance from former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre for the release of the Chinese convict.
“In the release of Chen Chan y Tiz, you complied with 953. You wrote Secretary Aguirre. You informed Secretary Aguirre and thereafter, the release was not completed until 2019, but you did. In other words, you know about 953,” the Senate President said.
He berated Santos after the witness insisted that the order, which was signed in 2015, was repealed by RA 10575 whose implementing rules and regulations were only implemented in 2018.
Faeldon claimed that he was never informed about the department order despite Santos’ revelation.
“I never heard him inform me about 953. In fact, that is not the way to do it if that is indeed true. They should have sent me a prepared letter of endorsement to the secretary listing down those supposed to be released for that month,” Faeldon said.
Faeldon ‘still trusted’
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, on the other hand, stressed that Faeldon still enjoys the continued trust of the President despite his relief from duty last week for “disobeying” orders regarding the early release of high-profile convicts.
He, however, noted that Faeldon having the President’s trust does not mean that he is absolved from any accountability on the controversy surrounding the GCTA law.
“The standard is that you will be removed for corruption, incompetence, disobeying,” Panelo said. “But the President knows Mr. Faeldon personally and they have experiences in the past that allowed Duterte to trust him until now.”
The President’s perception of Faeldon or any trusted appointee, however, is “subject to change” if “there are circumstances that alter his belief,” he stressed.
“He’s been given the highest penalty of dismissal from his position,” stated Panelo. “The guilt of Faeldon, whether criminal or administrative, will depend on the result of the investigation and recommendation of the inquiring body like the Senate and the Ombudsman.”
‘Bato’ followed protocol
Meantime, DoJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra revealed that former BuCor chief and now Sen. Ronald de la Rosa sought his approval for the release of other detainees sentenced with reclusion perpetua.
“There is something that we found in the records in connection with all of these requests for approval of SoJ (Secretary of Justice). There was this letter coming from the BuCor sometime in 2018, requesting that the authority to release Persons deprived of liberty (PDL) on account of expired sentences be delegated to the BuCor chief. I was unaware of this letter until very recently,” Guevarra explained.
When Gordon asked who signed the request, Guevarra said it was signed by a “higher authority” from the BuCor, but eventually disclosed that it was De la Rosa. However, he stressed that there was no action taken by the DoJ on that request.
In other developments, DoJ Undersecretary Markk Perete said the agency is checking with the Bureau of Immigration (BI) if indeed several persons deprived of liberty have left the country.
“We are double-checking this with BI as the preliminary report we received from them is to the contrary,” Perete said.
Año said over the weekend that he received a report that several of those prisoners are already abroad, but it is not clear on the number though the Philippine National Police is coordinating with the International Police to track them down.
With Kristina Maralit