POSTSCRIPT / September 5, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Bilibid or not, cash gifts can unlock jails

ASIDE from the rounding up of convicts set free on imaginary good behavior, the prison officials and influence peddlers who had worked out their release should be made to refund the cash gifts given to expedite their pre-departure processing.

How many of the 2,000 or so inmates released from the Bilibid national prison before fully serving their sentences were freed based on their cash position and not their exemplary behavior as contemplated under RA 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance law?

Under the now relaxed ethical standards in government, a cash gift (CG) – it is not a bribe, according to the new presidential policy – works better than bail that gives only provisional liberty to persons who run afoul of the law.

The CG rates vary, we were told, depending on the gravity of the offense, the known capacity to pay of the suspect or convict, and the rank or influence of the official receiving the money.

One drawback of a cash gift, however, is that it is not covered by a no return-no exchange guarantee. If something goes wrong — as in the review of cases of rapists, murderers and drug lords — while the convict may be hauled back to Bilibid, the cash gift is not likely to be refunded.

That should serve as a lesson to persons who believe in the power of lucre, that in this dark side of paradise lost, a cash gift given in the Dutertesque sense of gratitude can unlock a detention cell in the national penitentiary.

These are some of the points that the Senate may want to study in its public hearing being conducted ostensibly to plug loopholes in the law that makes possible the release on alleged good behavior of prisoners serving multiple life sentences for heinous crimes.

Senators should also be on guard against some deft hand writing into RA 10592 not remedial amendments but the loosening of the loopholes in the law and/or its implementing rules and regulations.

Were it not for eagle-eyed media and publicity-hungry politicos, the wholesale release of rapists, murderers, drug lords and other undeserving and unrepentant convicts would have gone unnoticed and unpunished much like the big-time drug smugglers of narcotics.

 Panelo, Faeldon better resign now

IT MAY be time for presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo and Bureau of Corrections Director Nicanor Faeldon to turn in their resignations and spare President Duterte the suspicion that he is coddling them.

Caught in the discussions about the mass release of high-profile prisoners on supposed good behavior, the two officials can keep insisting on their uprightness but the extended public jury may not be ready to acquit them.

Theirs is not a case before a court of law requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt. They are standing before the bar of public opinion where perception is enough to damn or clear the duo.

They should not hide behind the thought that they serve at the pleasure of the President and that it is all up to their boss to keep or kick them out. They should not be afraid to submit a letter of resignation and leave their fate to him.

Many of us assume that Panelo and Faeldon have earned enough millions anyway to last them another lifetime. Pecuniary interest should not bind them to their posts, but the honor attached to their positions of trust.

Panelo has fibbed and fumbled, a hazard in his delicate job of second-guessing the President. His latest misstatements on the case of Calauan ex-mayor Antonio Sanchez, his former client in the rape and murder cases, did not help Panelo improve his tenuous credibility.

Regarding the Sanchez family’s plea for clemency, Panelo confirmed Tuesday that he had met with them in his office in Malacañang, but insisted he never had “personal communication” with them. How did he perform that mystic feat?

When shown a letter on his Malacañang office’s letterhead bearing his signature that many people read as endorsing the Sanchez family’s plea, he split hair and said he was not endorsing the appeal but only referring it to the Board of Pardons and Parole.

This is just the case of Sanchez, his former client. Add it to other gaffes on his scorecard as presidential spokesman, and one is tempted to ask if twisting presidential statements and lying in tight situations are among his duties or his bag of tricks as a lawyer.

Faeldon, on the other hand, should be asked pointblank by one of the senators grilling him how true is it that he had signed and sealed a “Living Testimony” detailing incriminating details of big-time smuggling, drugs included, by a potent group from Davao.

The scuttlebutt in social media is that a copy was given to President Duterte with the understanding that it would be made public if anything untoward happened to Faeldon, who is deemed well-informed since he was customs commissioner when the alleged shenanigans occurred.

The insinuation is not fair to Duterte who is brought to the line of fire intended for Faeldon. It is uncanny that allegations of corruption and incompetence have followed the officer from Customs to the Bureau of Corrections.

In the Sanchez case, Faeldon is also arguing like a lawyer which he is not and standing pat like the Marine that he is. But we think that neither role – lawyer nor soldier – can save him now that the cruel judgment of public perception has taken over.

Both Panelo and Faeldon can spare the President from further harm if they resign pronto and not wait to be fired or transferred (or promoted) to other sinecures.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 5, 2019)

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