Fifty-six heinous crime convicts freed here under the good conduct law but were ordered to surrender by President Rodrigo Duterte in September following controversies in the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) shed tears Monday at the Iwahig Corrections Facility (ICF) as they receive their “certificates of discharge” to rejoin their families.
After two months of showing tolerance to delays and problems without becoming anxious, they were finally cleared to go home by the Oversight Committee of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that was tasked to review their Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).
One of them was “Mike”, 56, who could not help but cry upon hearing the news from ICF senior superintendent Geraldo Aro.
Mike was released through GCTA due to a murder case and was sentenced for eight years.
“Galing ako sa Manila pero dito ako nakapag-asawa sa Palawan at dito na rin ako nagkaroon ng kaso,” he said.
Mike worked as a security guard after his release under the GCTA. He surrendered to the ICF because he respected the wish of the president and he feared being hunted by authorities.
“Nagtra-trabaho ako noon tapos biglang naantala, may iba sa amin na natanggal. Hindi lang para sa akin kung hindi sa mga kasama ko. Marami sa amin ang natanggal sa trabaho dahil sa sitwasyon. Maraming naapektuhan lalo na ‘yong mga bata, lalo na kung walang naghahanapbuhay,” he said.
Mike said when he was paying for his offense inside the prison before, it did not cross his mind to escape.
He said he succumbed to the call immediately to avoid any “problem” that might affect him and his family.
“Noong nag-voluntary surrender kami dito, isa lang ang tinanong ko, ‘sir, gaano kaya ito katagal ‘yong panawagan para salain ‘yong kina-kailangan?’ Ang sagot sa amin ay ‘mga one week lang siguro ito’. Sabi ko, ‘kayang-kaya ‘yan, parang nagpapahinga lang tayo’, ganoon lang. Pero umabot kami ng two months, ang bigat. Ang hanapbuhay namin ay nawala,” he said.
Mike whose family is in Barangay Luzviminda will take a rest for two weeks before he look for a new job.
Aside from Mike, there was also “Hector” who was excited to get his certificate of discharge for the second time after his release in 2018.
Hector, 59, just had an accident when he surrendered and was using crutches to walk.
He used to work as a construction worker after he was released from prison due to a murder case.
“Talagang ang naramdaman ko ay makakapiling ko na ang pamilya ko sa ganitong naramdaman ko. Mag-iisang buwan pa lang ako nadisgrasya nong August, napilitan lang ako dahil ganitong sinasabi, babalik daw kami sa kulungan, magsu-surrender. Tinupad ko lahat para sabi ko kung sakali maging maayos sa pagtanggap ko uli ng release ko,” he said while crying during the interview.
“Maaari siguro, makauwi ako sa pamilya ko. Baka magpapahinga kasi hindi naman ako makatrabaho sa ganitong sitwasyon ko. Taga-Palawan din ako, sa [Sofronio] Española. Kung may pera, uuwi ako sa mga kapatid ko pero may anak din ako dito sa Bacungan,” he said.
The returnees temporarily confined at the ICF are composed of breadwinners who are sons, husbands, and grandfathers to their families like Sergio, 70, who was initially released from prison in 2014 due to homicide.
He said that he spent 12 years and he was not released due to GCTA. He chose to surrender himself planning to change his life.
“Sumuko ako dahil gusto ko magbagong-buhay. Sabi ng mga anak ko, ‘Pang, sumuko ka na, ihatid kita doon sa Iwahig prison’. Sabi ko ‘okay lang’,” he said.
During his two months of waiting, he said his only dream was to get their freedom within the process.
“Sa lupa ako nabubuhay, naglulupa ako. Nagtatanim ng mais, palay, mga gulay para mabuhay ang aking pamilya. Hindi pa nila alam na ngayon pala ako kasama. Panalangin ko lang na kasama ako at pasalamat ako na nakasama ako,” he said.
Sergio has 16 grandchildren waiting for him when he goes back to Barangay Inagawan.
The 56 returnees granted certificates of discharge will compose the first batch of ICF-released under the GCTA review.
According to ICF management, it is still upon the oversight committee of the DOJ to decide when the next batch will be released.
“We expect that anytime soon ay marami pa na susunod at ipinagdarasal natin na lahat sana sila ay ma-clear na rin before this year end at makapiling na rin nila ang kanilang pamilya. Hindi tayo nagsasalita ng tapos, it is again nasa final decision ng DOJ,” Evangelista said.