Nicanor Faeldon, the embattled Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief, has stepped down after President Rodrigo Duterte publicly demanded he leave his post at a press conference last night at Malacañang Palace.
Faeldon’s resignation comes in the wake of the furor sparked by the near-release of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, convicted in 1995 of torturing and murdering college students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. Sanchez was said to be in line to benefit from the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance law until a massive public outcry shelved plans for his release.
On Monday, Faeldon also admitted in a Senate hearing that three men convicted in the gruesome Chiong sister rape-murder case have already been freed, leading several senators and countless netizens to call for his resignation.
Beyond demanding Faeldon’s resignation, Duterte also ordered the Ombudsman to investigate other BuCor officials responsible for letting an estimated 2,000 prisoners walk free under the GCTA law, despite being ineligible.
“I am demanding the resignation of Faeldon immediately. Second, I am calling for the investigation [of BuCor officers] to be handled by the Ombudsman.”
“With Faeldon out, I’m ordering all who have had the opportunity to be in that committee, all of them [who] are with the BuCor, to report to me and to the Secretary of Justice. In the meantime, I will not suspend them but they will be investigated [by the Ombudsman].”
Duterte then ordered the freed convicts in question to turn themselves in to the nearest police precinct or military camp.
“Everyone who was freed by this law (GCTA) you surrender and have yourself registered with the BuCor. I will give yourself 15 days liberty provided you make yourself available anytime that you will be called for [an] investigation to have a re-computation [of your prison term] or if there’s an investigation of corruption… If you do not, beginning at this hour, you are a fugitive from justice,” he said, before adding an implicit threat of violence.
“You’ll be treated like a criminal that’s evading the law and well, things can go wrong.”
Duterte insisted that based on Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s advice, a released convict can be re-arrested anytime there is a “wrong construction or a faulty interpretation” of the law.
“I do not need a warrant [to have them arrested]. I take full responsibility for this and all consequences connected with this decision will be mine and mine alone. I am ready to be investigated and I am ready to be impeached,” Duterte said.
It was just two days ago when Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said that the president wanted to wait for the conclusion of Faeldon’s Senate hearings first before deciding on the fate of the controversial BuCor chief.
Speaking of Panelo, Duterte defended his spokesman last night for forwarding a clemency letter from Sanchez’s daughter, Marie Antonelvie Sanchez, to the Bureau of Pardons and Parole (BPP).
“When he received [the letter] he referred it to the proper entity. That’s the board (BPP). Panelo did not commit any infraction or [wrongdoing]… Nobody but nobody can question [his actions],” Duterte said.
Shortly after Duterte’s press conference, Faeldon announced that he was complying with the president’s order.
“My commander-in-chief/appointing authority has spoken,” he said in a statement. “I am a marine and a marine does as he is told. I most humbly bow to my commander-in-chief’s order without any hard feelings.”
Faeldon attracted national controversy in 2003 and 2007 when he, along with other junior military officers such as former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, staged a mutiny in Makati against then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Faeldon was subsequently given amnesty in 2010 by then-President Benigno Aquino III.
In May 2016, Duterte appointed him to lead the Bureau of Customs (BOC) but Faeldon ended up resigning a year later when billions of pesos worth of methamphetamine were discovered to have been smuggled from China and escaped customs officials’ scrutiny.