By Ben Rosario
Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate was assured Wednesday by the Office of the Ombudsman that it was indeed investigating former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief and now Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa in connection with the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) mess.
The Makabayan Bloc member received this assurance during his interpellation of House Appropriations Committee vice chairman and Zamboanga del Norte 1st District Rep. Romeo Jalosjos Jr., who defended the proposed budget of the Office of the Ombudsman.
Wednesday was the second day of the plenary deliberations on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020.
According to Jalosjos, the Ombudsman is conducting a motu proprio probe on the BuCor in connection with the GCTA issue. This means that the investigation was voluntarily initiated by the body.
“So all officials, past and present, that may have been involved in this controversy are investigated criminally, is that confirmed?” Zarate asked the sponsor of the Ombudsman’s proposed budget, which in this case was Jalosjos.
“Yes, your honor,” the latter replied.
“Will the sponsor confirm that all Bureau directors from August 2014 up to the present, including dismissed director [Nicanor] Faeldon are among those being investigated?” Zarate asked, to which Jalosjos again gave an affirmative answer.
Zarate, a Senior Deputy Minority Leader, then hurled this follow up: “What about Senator Bato, who was also a previous director of the Bureau of Prisons?
“As mentioned, all present and past are now under investigation,” the sponsor said, speaking for the Ombudsman.
Republic Act (RA) 10592, which increases the GCTA or good behavior credits for prisoners, is under scrutiny after convicted rapist-killer former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez was nearly released last month supposedly due to the application of this law.
This outraged the public, especially since Sanchez had been sentenced to seven reclusion perpetua for the rape-slay of Eileen Sarmienta and the killing of her companion, Allan Gomez in 1993.
It was subsequently learned that nearly 2,000 inmates – including heinous crime criminals – were released by BuCor in recent years due to the erroneous application of the RA 10592.
Dela Rosa, before his victory in the Senate race last May, served as BuCor chief from April to October 2018. BuCor, which is under the Department of Justice (DOJ), supervises the country’s penal system.
Malacañang had earlier said Dela Rosa should be probed over the release of some 120 heinous crime convicts under his watch.