If you thought the growing scandal around early prison releases couldn’t get any more complicated, think again.
With more than 2,000 prisoners now identified as having been erroneously released for “good conduct,” a list submitted to the Senate last week showed that one of the country’s most high-profile financial criminals was among those set free, only … she hasn’t been.
According to the list submitted by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), Janet Lim Napoles — sent up for her involvement in the Philippine Development Assistance Fund scam in December — was released under the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance law. But not only is Napoles still behind bars, bureau paperwork doesn’t even show her as jailed for the correct crime. Instead, it identifies her as a “rapist.”
Senator Richard Gordon, the lawmaker leading the Senate’s probe into the GCTA law, said that Napoles’ inclusion in the freed prisoners’ list, along with her misidentification, raises a whole lot of questions.
“They (BuCor) are so incompetent,” he told ABS-CBN News. “Is there an intention to free her? Why was the case listed rape and not plunder? There’s something to it.”
Speaking of incompetence, it actually gets worse. According to the BuCor document, Napoles was freed on Nov. 12, 2018, reported The Philippine Daily Inquirer. For the math-impaired, that means she was released before she was sentenced.
Napoles’ sentencing on “plunder” charges to 20 years in prison didn’t even happen until Dec. 7, 2018. Yes, our heads are spinning at this point, too.
If you’re not fully up to speed on Napoles’ plunder case, it revolves around the Philippines Development Assistance Fund, or PDAF, which is controlled directly by members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Set up in 1990, the fund is supposed to be used to fund small-scale infrastructure projects and social services, but (shocker!) has been the subject of numerous cases of alleged corruption.
In 2013, then Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. were accused of funneling their PDAF to several questionable NGOs, some of which were linked to Napoles.
Napoles and Richard Cambe, Revilla’s former chief of staff, were convicted of plunder. However, Revilla, still a senator, was ultimately exonerated. Estrada and Enrile are still awaiting their sentence.
The BuCor list submitted to Gordon’s Senate committee last week showed that 2,160 prisoners convicted of heinous crimes have been released since October 2013 under the Good Conduct Time Allowance law, releases that directly contravene a provision excluding those convicted of heinous crimes.
President Rodrigo Duterte has since ordered all freed convicts to turn themselves in or face being treated as fugitives. Meanwhile, the Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the suspension of 27 BuCor officials for six months for their alleged involvement in the questionable release of convicts.
The GCTA law deducts as many as 30 days from a prisoner’s term for every month served if they display good behavior during detention. At present, the law has been suspended by the government.