46 prison returnees walk out of Iwahig due to GCTA review delay

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 13 2019 07:51 AM | Updated as of Nov 13 2019 08:04 AM

In this photo taken on June 6, 2014, a man cycles past the gate of Iwahig prison in Puerto Princesa, Palawan island. Bounded by a mangrove forest-choked coast, a mountain range and a highway to Puerto Princesa city, 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) away, Iwahig is one of the world's largest open prisons, as well as one of the country's oldest correctional institutions. Ted Aljibe, AFP

Forty-six people who returned to the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm due to questions on their early release for good conduct stormed out of the facility in Puerto Princesa, Palawan last week due to impatience with the pace of the GCTA review, the Bureau of Corrections said Wednesday. 

President Rodrigo Duterte in September ordered some 2,000 heinous crime convicts freed by the Good Conduct Time Allowance law to surrender to authorities after a Senate inquiry bared allegations that some prisoners bribed authorities for their freedom. 

Out of the 46 people who walked out of Iwahig, 9 surrendered anew while 37 remained "unaccounted for", said BuCor spokesperson Major Alberto Tapiru. 

A total of 1,668 GCTA beneficiaries surrendered to authorities in September and 610 of them were released after the justice department reviewed their good conduct credits, he said. 

The prison returnees in Iwahig and the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa have grown impatient over the review's pace, Tapiru told radio DZMM. 

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"Lahat po sila ay naiinip... medyo nababagalan sa proseso," he said. 

(They are all impatient, they find the process slow.) 

The GCTA came under scrutiny following reports that it could set free Bilibid inmate Antonio Sanchez, a former mayor from Laguna province who was convicted in a highly followed 1990s rape-murder case. 
 
The issue led to the firing of BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon, who admitted to recommending freedom for Sanchez. 

Faeldon's successor Bucor Director Gerald Bantag earlier this week destroyed thousands of contraband items seized from prisoners, including cellphones, charger, keyboards, pocket wifi, internet routers, and electric sub-meters. 

The haul only amounts to 50 percent of the total contraband still hidden in Bilibid, which authorities continue searching for, said Tapiru.