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Editorial

Fishy as hell

/ 05:30 AM September 01, 2019

Did he or didn’t he? Sign the release papers of convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez, that is. That’s the plain question, requiring a simple yes or no answer, that strangely remains unanswered by Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director general Nicanor Faeldon, the man at the vortex of the tempest now engulfing the Duterte administration.

Over a week since the issue exploded with the government’s announcement that it was considering the release of the former Calauan mayor and many other prisoners under an updated early-prisoner-release law, triggering a massive public backlash and forcing Malacañang to abandon the plan, the one government official who could straighten out the issue has remained mostly mum and uncommunicative.

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The result, for the administration at least, is now the unwanted gift that keeps on giving — a gigantic can of worms that has yet to cease disgorging evermore sordid revelations involving not only spectacular incompetence and cluelessness on the part of various officials, but quite possibly a whole lot more: corruption, deceit, skullduggery, even murder.

On Aug. 27, just days after the planned Sanchez release sparked nationwide fury, a jail official — Ruperto Traya Jr., BuCor chief administrative officer 3 — was assassinated, riding-tandem-style, in Muntinlupa City.

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Traya, according to the police, was in charge of documentation and paperwork at the bureau, including the safekeeping of the release papers that presumably covered the scuttled liberation of Sanchez and, as revealed by Sen. Ping Lacson, the successful, unannounced release of a number of Chinese drug traffickers made earlier.

Now, Traya is dead; who benefits from what appears to be a mopping-up operation to ensure his eternal silence?

Both the House and the Senate have announced forthcoming hearings on this issue; it’s paramount that their first order of business is to put Faeldon and his team on the stand to ferret out clear and satisfactory answers about the havoc they’ve unleashed.

Chief among the questions: What’s the truth about the Sanchez family’s allegation that Faeldon had, in fact, already signed the release order for their father and that Sanchez had been scheduled to walk out of jail on Aug. 20 — but for the public outrage that quickly had officials barring the move at the last minute?

Faeldon earlier denied he had signed the release, but strangely, it was Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who made the denial for him. At a BuCor presscon held last Thursday, Faeldon was a no-show, while the bureau itself refused to release the papers, or even a list of the nearly 2,000 heinous crime convicts already freed for supposed good behavior since 2014.

GMA-7, however, has reported that it has gotten hold of the much-elusive Sanchez release paper — with Faeldon’s signature clearly on it.

So, to repeat: Did he or didn’t he authorize the murderous mayor’s early freedom? And on what grounds, since the good conduct time allowance law had specifically imposed safeguards and limits by excluding “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes”?

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How, on that basis, did Sanchez, convicted for one of the ghastliest crimes in the nation’s memory and with numerous documented prison violations besides, and the Chinese drug traffickers, chief targets of the administration’s purported all-out war against drugs, qualify?

Where, for that matter, are the papers, the timelines, the reports of the discussions that must have taken place as each prisoner’s case for possible early release was considered? Where is the paper trail that should be basic to an administrative but highly sensitive process like this? Or perhaps, as some legislators now openly charge, money simply changed hands to facilitate the easy discharge of favored jailbirds?

By command responsibility, Faeldon should be front and center in this controversy; instead, he’s been tight-lipped, unforthcoming. While he may think he can ride out public scrutiny again, as when President Duterte plucked him in the nick of time from the Bureau of Customs to save him from accountability over a P6.4-billion drug smuggling case, the present pickle he’s in may prove to have longer legs to hound him until he is able to provide adequate answers.

The revelations so far appear to scratch merely the surface of the monumental stink pervading in the New Bilibid Prisons, and with each new disclosure, Congress and the public ought to be merciless in peeling away at a case that, far from winding down as the administration perhaps had hoped, remains fishy as hell.

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TAGS: Antonio Sanchez, GCTA, good conduct time allowance, Inquirer editorial, Nicanor Faeldon, released prisoners
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