PNP halts manhunt vs. GCTA-freed convicts

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MANILA — The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday put on hold the manhunt against persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who were released through the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).

The suspension came following an order from the Department of Justice (DOJ) pending the issuance of the revised list of prematurely released heinous crime convicts.

“The arrest of GCTA-freed PDLs is suspended for now. We are waiting for the list from the DOJ and then, we will resume the manhunt. However, we advise the police officers on the ground to process those who will surrender and turn them over to the Bureau of Corrections,” said PNP deputy spokesperson, Lt. Col. Kimberly Molitas, in a press briefing held in Camp Crame.

Molitas said the measure will ensure that they will only arrest those who were prematurely released through GCTA.

“We need the list to make sure that our tracker teams will arrest the right persons. We also advised all regional directors to create also their own tracker teams to assist CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group),” she added.

Meanwhile, Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said President Rodrigo R. Duterte has the full prerogative to continue or suspend the rearrest and recovery of PDLs.

“It must be emphasized that it is only the Office of the President which can put on hold officially the rearrest, because the original order came from the President himself,” Perete said, as more than 2,000 PDLs surrendered to authorities at the end of the President’s 15-day deadline.

Delays have hampered government efforts to complete the revised list of PDLs released through the GCTA.

Part of the problem, Perete said, was that official prison records were with the Senate, which has been conducting a legislative inquiry into irregularities hounding the country’s corrections system.

Perete said the incomplete records of prisoners were also hampering their determination of those entitled to be released since the records only listed penalties imposed on individual prisoners and not necessarily the offense committed by the PDLs.

The justice department earlier asserted that persons convicted of heinous crimes are among those not eligible for the benefits of the GCTA Law.

“We had to remove from the list those who had been pardoned and those who are out on parole. Theoretically, the remainder would be those who were convicted of heinous crimes. However, if we go over the residual list, the penalties imposed on certain individuals would be reclusion perpetua or reclusion perpetua to death,” Perete said.

Some individuals who have turned themselves in have refused to leave the Bureau of Corrections despite assurances that they were not among those which the authorities seek to re-arrest.

He added that concerned agencies were working round the clock to “prepare the necessary documentation, which would somehow legally protect those who have turned themselves in so that when they are already outside, they will not be subject to rearrest.”

Perete assured that precautions were being undertaken to prevent the harassment of innocent prisoners released, as well as to ensure the capture of heinous crime convicts. (with PNA reports)

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