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Tulog sa pansitan! Drilon slams PAO’s inaction on 862 prisoners’ plea for release

Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon on Tuesday slammed the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) for “sitting on petitions” for the release of about 862 prisoners.

He said the concerned prisoners could hae been released in 2017 with the passage of Republic Act 10951 amending the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

“It’s totally intolerable and inexcusable. I am disappointed. How can the bureaucracy react in this manner when the liberties of people are on the line?” Drilon lamented.

It was Drilon who authored and sponsored the passage of RA 10951, which adjusted the outdated amounts in the RPC which were based on the value of money in 1932.

The law is intended to benefit inmates who are mostly poor who have been convicted with inordinately long prison sentences and excessive fines for crimes which are in fact considered petty today.

For instance, qualified theft of a sack of rice that costs P370 would have merited the penalty of reclusion temporal, with an imprisonment ranging from 12 years and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months. The law, which Drilon authored, corrected this injustice.

During Drilon’s interpellation on the budget of the Department of Justice (DoJ) and its attached agencies, it was revealed that there are about 862 detainees who are already entitled to release under RA 10951 but only 39 petitions have been filed by PAO with the Supreme Court, while 12 have been filed with the Regional Trial Court.

“Let’s face it: this is criminal neglect. They did not mind this because it involves prisoners. That’s the truth. They did not mind it at all,” Drilon said.

Since the passage of the law in August 2017, it was revealed that only two prisoners were released, he noted.

This prompted Drilon to issue a warning to the DoJ that he will have the performance of the agency with regard to the implementation of RA 10951 reviewed.

“We are going to file a resolution asking for a review of the performance of the DoJ insofar as this is concerned. You are given fair warning. I will repeat, this is totally unacceptable,” Drilon said.

He was, thus, shocked to find out that the PAO is too slow in filing petitions before the court for the immediate release of prisoners, who are continously incarcerated despite the passage of RA 10951.

The Supreme Court has also issued detailed guidelines on the implementation of RA 10951 primarily naming the PAO as the one with the duty of filing the requisite petitions, he noted.

“There are 862 inmates who could have been released but are still languishing in jail because of the bureaucracy that is responding slowly. Ano ba naman yan?” Drilon said.

“Without any conscience, they let 862 inmates suffer continued imprisonment,” he lamented.

Instead of working on the release of the inmates, Drilon said the PAO has dedicated its effort and time to talk about dengvaxiaon a daily basis.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel agreed with Drilon and vowed to join and actively participate in reviewing DoJ’s performance.

For its part, the PAO has committed to file the petitions for all 862 inmates by January next year.

Drilon warned that he will hold PAO accountable if they do not make any progress with regard to the filing of petition for the release of the 862 inmates qualified to be released under the law.

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