Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Gregorio Pio Catapang (File photo)

MANILA – Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Gregorio Pio Catapang on Wednesday said the agency is working overtime to grant executive clemency to around 700 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) before the end of the year.

“Estimate po namin ay 300 to 500; ano po iyon, medyo parang lower end na estimate. Pero as much as hanggang 500 to 700 ang gusto naming mapalaya this end of the year, bago ang Pasko o bago ang New Year po (Our estimate is 300 to 500. That’s lower end of estimate. But we want to release as much as 500 to 700 before Christmas or before New Year),” Catapang said in the Laging Handa public forum.

He said elderly PDLs will be prioritized for parole or executive clemency based on the directive issued by Justice Secretary Jesus Remulla.

"Iyong mga panuntunan po kasi, unang-una, may batas naman po na kapag 70 years old up ka, puwede kang mag-apply for parole or clemency. So, sa dami po ng mga PDLs natin na 70 years old – above po sila, balak po namin nai-apply po sila kasi iyon po ang utos ni Secretary Remulla sa akin na kung puwede ay palayain na po iyong mga matatanda (That’s the rule. We have also a law that if you are a PDL who is 70 years old and above, you can apply for parole or clemency. There are many PDLs of that age. So we will apply them because that was Secretary Remulla’s order to explore the possibility of their release), Catapang said.

He said the overpopulated system is no longer fit for frail and elderly PDLs.

"Kasi nga kapag binisita mo sila sa prison cell, and maawa po kayo sa katayuan nila (When you visit them in their prison cells, their situation is pitiful)," he said.

Catapang said no less than President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has made a directive to come up with a policy of compassionate justice.

"(A)ng guidance po naman ng ating mahal na Pangulo ay compassionate justice. So based on those guidelines o directive ay gagawin po namin iyong gusto ng ating nakakataas (The guidance of the President is compassionate justice. So based on those guidelines or directives, we will follow the order of our superiors),” he said.

Catapang said Bucor workers, the Public Attorney's Office and the Board of Pardon and Parole are working overtime to complete the documentation to fast-track the release of PDLs entitled for parole or clemency.

He said by next year, more PDLs will benefit from decongestion efforts at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) under a tripartite agreement signed by the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Health (DOH) and National Defense (DND).

"At the same time, kapag na-decongest namin, with decongestion mayroon din kaming palalayain na mga, hopefully, 300 hanggang isang libo kung maayos po iyong mga documentation at saka iyong kanilang … kung they are all eligible for parole or clemency (Once we decongest, hopefully will release 300 to 1,000 once the documentation is finished and if they are all eligible for parole or clemency),” he said. (PNA)