Ariel Balansag and Albert Caño, two of the seven men convicted for the 1997 rape-murder of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong, surrendered to police of Friday, just two weeks after walking free under the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that Josman Aznar and James Anthony Uy, who was previously unreported as being free, are expected to surrender this week as well, the Philippine Star reported.
Initial reports, based on statements given in the Senate by former Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon, had identified only Balansag, Caño, and Aznar as having been freed, but late last week, CNN Philippines reported that Uy was released from Muntinlupa City’s New Bilibid Prisons at the same time as Aznar.
In 1997, the Chiong sisters were raped and murdered after their abduction from the Ayala Center in Cebu City. A body believed to be Marijoy’s was later discovered in a ravine in the neighboring Carcar. Jacqueline’s body has never been found.
Convicted for kidnapping the sisters in May 1999 were Rowen Adlawan, Caño, Balansag, Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga, Aznar, and brothers James Andrew and James Anthony Uy, all of whom were sentenced to two life terms each.
In February 2004, the Supreme Court imposed the death penalty on all suspects except James Anthony Uy, who was a minor when the crime was committed.
The six facing lethal injection were spared in 2006 when then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo commuted their sentences to life terms.
Larrañaga, a Spanish national, is serving his term at a prison in his home country.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte called on the more than 2,000 criminals convicted of heinous crimes but erroneously released for “good behavior” to turn themselves in within 15 days. He also demanded Faeldon’s resignation, but said last week that he still believes the latter to be an upright individual, reported Rappler.
Faeldon’s sacking and the controversy surrounding the GCTA law stemmed from the near-release of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was sentenced in 1995 to seven life terms for the rape and killing of college students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. Sanchez was supposed to have been freed due to good behavior despite the fact that those committing “heinous” crimes are excluded from taking advantage of the GCTA and that he had committed numerous violations while he was in prison.
The Philippine National Police said last week that they will track down the released convicts ahead of Duterte’s 15-day ultimatum.
Justice Guevarra said those who don’t surrender will be “considered fugitives.”