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Leila De Lima, Mar Roxas asked to explain GCTA rules
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Leila De Lima, Mar Roxas asked to explain GCTA rules

MANILA, Philippines, September 11 ------ The Office of the Ombudsman wants detained Sen. Leila de Lima and former senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas to explain why the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law that they helped prepare as Cabinet officials of the previous administration qualified convicts of heinous crimes for early release. Ombudsman Samuel Martires, in separate letters dated Sept. 6, gave De Lima and Roxas three days upon receipt of notice to respond.

De Lima and Roxas were secretaries of justice and the interior and local government, respectively, during the Aquino administration. The GCTA law, contained in Republic Act 10592, was passed in 2013 and the IRR was approved in March 2014. In his letter, Martires explained that the anti-graft body is conducting “a fact-finding investigation on alleged irregularities in the implementation of Republic Act 10592 by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).”

On Monday, the ombudsman ordered the preventive suspension of 27 BuCor officials. It announced the suspension of three more officials yesterday. Malacañang said it is confident the investigation being undertaken by the ombudsman would ferret out the truth. “The expectation is we want the truth on the matter in the Bureau to come out so that heads will roll,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing. “Apparently, they found probable cause, hence the suspension of 27 officials of that office,” he added.

Martires noted the GCTA law amended the Revised Penal Code to allow shortened prison terms for convicts by crediting the period of their preventive imprisonment in the counting of the number of years of sentence. He said the law however provided specific exceptions for “recidivists” or for those who “have been convicted previously twice or more times of any crime,” and for those who “failed to surrender voluntarily upon being summoned for execution of sentence,” as well as for “habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes.” The IRR, however, does not contain provision disqualifying convicts of heinous crimes.

“In this regard, this Office requests the submission, within three days from receipt hereof, of a written explanation/clarification on why the foregoing provision in the IRR does not contain the same disqualifications as enumerated in the last paragraph of Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 1 of RA 10592,” Martires said. The three ordered suspended yesterday were Frederic Anthony Santos, BuCor legal division chief; Maria Fe Marquez, superintendent of the Correctional Institute for Women; and Correctional Officer III Joel Nalva. The ombudsman said they have to vacate their posts as their continued stay “may prejudice the cases filed against them.”

Martires directed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to immediately implement the preventive suspension orders and submit proof of compliance within five days.