By Catherine S Valente /Manila Times
President Rodrigo Duterte will not allow the early release of rape-murder convict Antonio Sanchez, as he is not eligible under the law that credits good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for prisoners, Malacanang said yesterday.
Speaking to reporters, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo noted that those convicted of heinous crimes like Sanchez are not entitled to benefit from such law.
“Sanchez under Republic Act (RA) 10592 is not eligible, so the president, as chief enforcer of the law, will have to follow the law,” Panelo said during a media interview.
“He will really get angry because if the law says he’s disqualified then why should he be considered?” he added.
Panelo, in a statement, said RA 10592 “is categorical in excluding recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes from the benefit of its coverage.”
“Thus, the inevitable conclusion is that all those convicted of a heinous crime, including Antonio Sanchez, would be ineligible and disqualified from availing of the benefits of the GCTA,” he added.
The former mayor of Calauan town in Laguna province and six of his aides were each sentenced to serve seven 40-year prison terms for the rape-murder of Eileen Sarmenta and for the murder of Allan Gomez, both University of the Philippines Los Banos students, in 1993.
Under the Penal Code, no person should be imprisoned for more than 40 years even if convicted in multiple cases.
Duterte’s former top aide and now Sen.
Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said the president was “outraged” when he learned that Sanchez could be released from prison.
“I can’t speak on behalf of the president, but when we talked, the president got angry,” Go replied when asked about the reaction of the president, a former prosecutor.
“He said he does not agree and cited a law, in short he doesn’t like it, he’s upset,” he said.
Go, who supports the reinstatement of death penalty for certain heinous crimes, pointed out the need to study the case of Sanchez, saying the latter was better off in jail.
“His case should be studied well.
He did not apply for executive clemency.
He is one of the names on the list of 10,000 inmates who may be benefited by RA 10592.
However, this is not an automatic grant, but will be subject to stringent evaluation as mentioned by the SoJ (Secretary of Justice) and BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) head Nicanor Faeldon,” the senator added.
“Sanchez, do not anymore dream to be freed.
Just continue to pay for your sins inside jail, instead of going out, your life might be shortened,” he said.
Panelo, who once served as Sanchez’s lawyer, expressed the Palace’s support to BuCor’s move to “carefully and cautiously review the GCTA of persons who have been found guilty by the courts of having committed high profile, heinous crimes or crimes so grave that show extreme moral depravity.”
While saying the executive branch has “no discretion” in the implementation of the GCTA, he also noted that the law “still allows for the proper evaluation of inmates to ensure their proper coverage.”
“Otherwise stated, while the executive branch is constrained to grant the benefit of the GCTA, it will only grant it to those who are entitled to such benefit,” he added.
The Palace official welcomed lawmakers’ call to conduct hearings on Sanchez’s eligibility under the law’s GCTA clause.
“The sentiments of the people are understandable vis-a-vis the law passed by Congress during the previous administration and its recent interpretation by the Supreme Court,” Panelo said.
Also yesterday, Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay called for a full review of procedures in granting GCTA to prisoners, saying the operations manual being used by BuCor, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and provincial jails might have been wrongly interpreted or implemented.
“In the light of the Mayor Sanchez case, maybe there is a need to look at other cases that were granted CPI (Credits for Preventive Imprisonment) and good conduct time allowances.
One concern is the lack of clear key performance indicators, not to mention that it’s too subjective if you say good behaviour,” Binay said.
In RA 10592, CPI and GCTA will commute the term of imprisonment of convicts, and once these allowances are granted, they cannot be revoked.
In an interview, Faeldon said the decision whether Sanchez would be released might be done as early as the first week of September.
While detained at the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, the former mayor had been charged with possession of illegal drugs.
BuCor personnel are recomputing the GCTAs of some 11,000 inmates in line with a recent Supreme Court ruling that declared the law on GCTAs should be applied retroactively, or to all cases, even from before the enactment of the measure in 2013.But the high court has washed its hands from any blame by the public over the possible release of Sanchez.
“The Supreme Court did not order the release of mayor Sanchez in its recent decision in the consolidated cases entitled Inmates of the New Bilibid Prison et Al vs de Lima et Al, GR 212719, and Edago et Al vs de Lima et Al, GR 214637.
In those cases, the primary issue was the legality of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10592, which provided for the prospective application of the law,” Brian Hosaka, Supreme Court Public Information Office chief, said in a statement. The Supreme Court official also argued that “the implementation of RA 10592 is not within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.”
“Like all laws, it is to be implemented and executed by the executive branch of government.
Again, the judiciary merely interpreted the law and ruled that it can be applied retroactively,” he said.
For the mothers of Sarmenta and Gomez, the looming release of Sanchez has opened up old wounds and brought back memories of suffering.
Maria Clara Sarmenta said her husband had a hard time identifying Eileen and only recognised her by a mole on her face.
“Even the morgue had a hard time to fix the face of my daughter. They had to ask for a picture of her so they can reconstruct the face. But they said it didn’t do justice to my daughter,” Maria Clara, mother of Eileen, said.
The two mothers denied they had been paid the P10mn in damages ordered by the court against Sanchez and his six cohorts.
“Not a single cent,” Maria Clara told the ABS-CBN News Channel.
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