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Who let the villains out? Philippines crime-busting president red-faced

MANILA – The early release of hundreds of convicted rapists, murderers and drug criminals has acutely embarrassed Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, with his justice minister saying they were ineligible to be freed because of the severity of their crimes.

Some 1,700 felons serving life sentences have quietly walked free under a good behaviour programme in the three years since Duterte swept to power, promising to wage a national war on corruption, drugs and crime.

Among those freed are 745 convicted rapists, 748 murderers and 156 drug criminals, according to an internal prisons document, obtained by Reuters, that names all of the prisoners guilty of crimes categorized as “heinous”.

They included Josman Aznar, Ariel Balansag and Alberto Cano, three of six men sentenced to death in 2004 for the 1997 kidnap, rape and murder of two sisters in one of the country’s most high-profile cases. Their sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment.

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