Former Department of Justice (DoJ) secretaries Vitaliano Aguirre and Leila de Lima are expected to lock horns after Sen. Richard Gordon said his Blue Ribbon panel may summon both in the ongoing inquiry into the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) mess for them to shed light on the implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.
The law took effect in 2013, but the release of inmates covered by the law did not start until a year after when the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) was crafted by De Lima and then Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Manuel Roxas II.
The IRR turns out as having been exploited for the release of high profile convicts facing multiple life terms that Gordon wanted the past DoJ heads to explain.
He said the IRR weakened the DoJ’s supervision over the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), which implemented the GCTA Law that is now under review.
Aguirre and De Lima previously squared off during the Senate hearings on the allegations of extrajudicial killings as a result of the war on drugs, where self-confessed assassins Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascañas were presented as witnesses but failed to substantiate the allegations against President Rodrigo Duterte.
Aguirre invitation out
The panel had decided on inviting Aguirre, but it will still deliberate on having De Lima testify, the senator said.
“When it comes to De Lima, you have to set back the timeline to 2016 when she was readying for the elections. So, she might be raising funds then,” Gordon indicated.
Aguirre has to explain the agency’s supposed failure to comply with the department order signed by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, then DoJ secretary, during his three-month stint in 2015.
Department Order 953 stated that the Justice secretary is the final approving authority for the release of inmates sentenced to life imprisonment.
“So now we will call them, hey Mr. Aguirre, why didn’t you check on that order? Do you agree with that?” he added.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, in a separate radio interview, said the DoJ should regain its control over the BuCor.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said Republic Act 10575 or the BuCor Act removed the DoJ’s control over the penal agency and merely retained its administrative supervision.
The DoJ should regain its control over the BuCor.
It was revealed in the Senate inquiry that BuCor did not follow the DoJ’s 2015 department order.
BuCor’s legal division chief, Fredric Anthony Santos, earlier said the bureau no longer sought the DoJ’s permission for the release of the inmates as the enactment of the BuCor Act repealed the said department order.
Senate eyes new law
The senator said he will ask Guevarra to contribute in crafting a law that would strengthen the DoJ’s powers over the BuCor.
Drilon, who is a former Justice secretary, said DoJ’s supervisory and control powers over all its attached agencies should also be restored.
Among the DoJ’s attached agencies are the BuCor, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Bureau of Immigration and Public Attorney’s Office.
The alleged abuses in the implementation of RA 10592 is now the subject of the Senate congressional inquiry after it was revealed that more 2,000 heinous crime convicts were released due to the said law.
Retired police director, now Mayor Benjamin Magalong, will also attend the probe, according to Gordon.
Magalong was head of the Philippine National Police operations against the irregularities inside the NBP, which was stopped cold by De Lima.
He was left out in a subsequent raid conducted by De Lima herself along with a team from the NBI.
Hospital only for sick
Drug convicts who are in the NBP Hospital without an ailment should be injected with poison so they go straight to the morgue, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said.
Go expressed exasperation over how some NBP convicts evade prison time while using hospital admission to conduct illegal businesses.
“Their dextrose should be replaced with poison,” Go said in an interview in Pagadian City, where he opened a new Malasakit Center, a one-stop shop for those seeking medical assistance.
“Go and stay long in the hospital, next time we will inject your dextrose. If it is confirmed that you are not sick, we will assure that you go straight to the morgue,” he added.
Several probes ongoing
At a recent Senate hearing, witnesses said passes to the NBP Hospital are offered for sale as among the irregularities in the national penitentiary.
Aside from observing very keenly the Senate investigation, the DOJ is also awaiting the outcome of the NBI, which will be the basis of the Justice department to ascertain possible liability of those involved whether criminal, administrative or civil, DoJ Undersecretary and spokesman Markk Perete noted.
“Of those responsible for violation of our criminal laws, of their oath as public officers, and of the fundamental edict to treat each human person with utmost respect,” Perete said.
On the other hand, the Secretaries of Justice and Interior and Local Government will be reviewing the draft IRR that has been submitted by the Joint Review Committee after it completed its work.