More than a thousand prisoners prematurely freed under the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance Law will be captured “dead or alive” if they do not surrender before a Thursday deadline, according to President Rodrigo Duterte.
Authorities scrambled to track down the prisoners — including convicted murderers and rapists — who were released early because of a wrong application of the law and possible corruption of prison officers.
Earlier this month, Duterte set a September 19 deadline for the prisoners to surrender or return to jail or face the consequences. He also offered a P1 million price on their heads.
“The one million prize is available to those who can capture them dead or alive,” Duterte told reporters on Tuesday night.
“But maybe dead would be a better option. I will pay you smiling,” he added.
More than 20,000 prisoners have been released since 2014, including those convicted of heinous crimes who were found to be ineligible for a law that rewards good behavior with shorter jail time.
The law went into effect in 2014, two years before Duterte was elected president.
The release of prisoners became controversial when Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials announced that former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez would join thousands of inmates who would be released under the good conduct law.
Public furor prompted Duterte to sack former BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon.
At least 500 prisoners have surrendered over the past two weeks, according to police. Their cases will be reviewed by authorities with a view to returning them to prison.
On Wednesday, two officials of BuCor and a doctor of the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) hospital detained by the Senate sought refuge at the Court of Appeals.
The three were cited in contempt for giving evasive answers during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Sept. 12, 2019.
A petition for habeas corpus was filed before the appeals court by CTSO3 Ramoncito Roque, chief of the Records and Documents Section of BuCor, Frederic Anthony
Santos, legal officer of the Records and Documents Section of BuCor and Ursicio Cenas, medical officer of the NBP Hospital.
Named respondents to the case were Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, Sen. Richard Gordon and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Rene Samonte.
The petitioners asked the court to declare their arrest and detention illegal.