(File photo)

Over 50 Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) returnees might celebrate Christmas at the Iwahig Corrections Facility (ICF) because no updated has been heard or received from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) oversight committee if they will be released.

ICF spokesperson and corrections technical officer II Levi Evangelista said that the remaining returnees are confined separately in the central, Inagawan and Montible sub-colonies based on their choices.

“Hopefully, by early January, kung magkakaroon man ng Christmas break, sana ay meron na (new list). Pero kung may bumaba before this Christmas, sabi nga baka magpamasko rin si director Gerald Bantag sa mga returnees. Let us see,” he said.

Evangelista said they are still hoping that a new batch of names of returnees will be released before the New Year.

He said that in November, the DOJ released an order that the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) will now be authorized to process and release persons deprived of liberty (PDL).

“The DOJ through the oversight committee confirmed that BuCor is authorized to process and release Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) in accordance with 2019 revised implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 10592,” as stated.

In November, Evangelista said the BuCor released three names of returnees who will be freed following the first batch of 58 returnees.

Unfortunately, the three names were included in the list of 40 GCTA returnees who escaped from the ICF in October.

“The BuCor has been authorized without the need for prior approval from the DOJ, to cause the release of PDL whose sentences have been completed or have expired as a result of time allowances and benefits granted under R.A. No. 10592 and other applicable laws, rules, and regulations,” as stated in the order.

“The foregoing notwithstanding, nothing in this confirmation shall be construed as to derogate from the provisions of Department Order No. 953 dated 26 November 2015 which specifically requires prior approval of the Secretary of Justice for the release of the PDL sentenced to Life Imprisonment, Reclusion Perpetua and/or are considered as high-risk inmates,” it added.

Over 20 names of escapees were included in the first batch of GCTA returnees released from the ICF, yet, only half reached out to get their certificate of releases.

Due to the escape incident in October, the ICF management decided to put the returnees inside the minimum security compound at the visiting area to tighten the security.