September 4, 2019 / 1:08 PM / 11 days ago

Philippines' Duterte wants 1,700 freed inmates locked up

FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks with an official during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, August 29, 2019. How Hwee Young/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday 1,700 convicts who were freed early for good behaviour should be sent back to prison after questions were raised over the legality of their release.

Duterte told a news conference the 1,700 inmates, some of them imprisoned for rape and murder, had 15 days to surrender or they would be considered fugitives.

“If I were you, I would surrender to the nearest police or military detachment wherever you are now,” Duterte said, adding he would offer a bounty for inmates who failed to do so.

“I will place 1 million pesos ($19,065) per head, dead or alive,” he said.

Duterte demanded the resignation of his prisons chief, accusing him of disobeying an order not to release inmates convicted of heinous crimes.

A 2014 law allows for prisoners to be released early for good behaviour.

It is being scrutinised by lawmakers after public outrage triggered by reports that a former mayor convicted of raping and murdering two university students in 1993 could have walked free before his prison term ended.

Close to 2,000 inmates serving a life sentence have been freed under the 2014 law, Senator Franklin Drilon said on Sunday, but their release orders were invalid because they were not approved by the Department of Justice Secretary.

Reporting by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales; editing by Darren Schuettler

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