By JOEY NACALABAN and JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
REP. Rufus Rodriguez of the city’s 2nd District yesterday warned the police against arresting convicts released on the basis of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law, saying they could be charged with illegal arrest if they did that based on mere orders from President Duterte.
Rodriguez said the President’s order cannot be used as a legal basis in arresting the GCTA beneficiaries even if prison officials blundered or based their actions on the wrong interpretation of the GCTA law.
He said this following the “surrender” of many of GCTA beneficiaries. In northern Mindanao alone, at least eight released convicts handed themselves over to the police that warned that authorities would arrest those who opt not to surrender.
Rodriguez, co-author of Republic Act 10592 or the GCTA law, said the prisoners who availed of the GCTA are not considered fugitives given that they walked out of prison through the front door with their personal belongings and some even accompanied by their family members. He said their release orders were approved, correctly or incorrectly, by officials of the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor).
This means, according to Rodriguez, that any move to arrest the GCTA beneficiaries would be considered legally invalid.
“You can’t just arrest them,” Rodriguez warned law enforcers. “I don’t think that is allowed in our Constitution.”
Authorities, he said, need to secure warrants from the courts first before the arrests could be considered valid.
Rodriguez said the GCTA law was very clear that those convicted of heinous crimes cannot benefit from it.
He said he suggested to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to secure arrest warrants from the courts where the released convicts were tried and sentenced.
“That is the proper procedure,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said those who were freed because of the GCTA law should not surrender because they are neither escapees nor fugitives. Instead, he said, they should wait for the court order their arrest.
“Kung aduna gani silay abogado kini nga hisgotanan puede pa ipaabot sa Supreme Court,” he said.
Rodriguez added: “There is no legal basis for them to be brought back to jail. These convicts should be advised by jail officials to wait for their warrants of arrest.
“They (freed convicts) are not escapees, they were released legally… The Department of Justice should direct its prosecutors all over the country to go to the courts of origin and file motions for issuances of warrants of arrest.”
He said President Duterte is well-intentioned as shown by the sacking of Bucor chief Nicanor Faeldon “but still, the procedure of law should be followed.”
“We have a judicial branch. The President is the executive, he implements. But the issuance of arrest warrants is part of a judicial process. It cannot be that anyone will just say ‘Arrest them!’ and the police will follow,” he said.
As of Tuesday, eight released convicts turned themselves in, according to Camp Alagar.