Manila Times/ Manila
The Department of Justice (DoJ) has created a task force to review the guidelines on the implementation of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the task force would scrutinise the guidelines on the release of inmates based on Republic Act (RA) 10592 or the GCTA Law.
The Justice department moved to suspend the implementation of the policy because of the furore raised over reports that former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez could be one of thousands of inmates who would regain their freedom under the GCTA Law.
Guevarra said his department would raise the issue before the Supreme Court.
“We will surely inform the Supreme Court about the need to temporarily suspend the processing of GCTAs until the BuCor guidelines have been carefully reviewed by a DoJ task force to be constituted for the purpose. We expect the processing to pick up greater speed once the guidelines have been reviewed and firmed up,” he said yesterday.
“We will fix a definite period, within which to complete the review upon consultation with the BuCoR and other relevant agencies to avoid any undue prejudice to the rights of PDLs (people deprived of liberty), who have validly earned GCTAs,” he added.
Sanchez was convicted of seven counts of reclusion perpetua, which is equivalent to life imprisonment for the rape slay of Aileen Sarmenta and the killing of her boyfriend, Allan Gomez, in 1993.
On Friday, Malacanang said President Rodrigo Duterte was strongly against the release of Sanchez.
“Sanchez is not eligible, so the president, as chief enforcer of the law, will have to follow the law,” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
He explained that RA 10592 does not cover recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crime.
Guevarra said the DoJ would “clear things out” in view of the questions raised regarding the implementation of the new law and the Supreme Court’s ruling that the GCTA Law could be applied retroactively.
“Considering the view of some lawyers that all convicted prisoners, regardless of the crimes they committed, are eligible or qualified to receive the benefits of the expanded GCTA Law, the DoJ will be glad to have this issue resolved with clarity and finality either by a congressional amendment of its own act or by an interpretation rendered by the supreme court in a proper case brought before it,” the Justice chief said.
Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros yesterday urged the government to implement RA 10592 according to its true intent to avoid perverting the spirit of restorative justice.
The senator also said the government must “thoroughly review all factors before applying clemency sentences.”
RA 10592 allows qualified inmates to be released early due to good behaviour. But she said Sanchez did not deserve to be released because of his “continued criminal behaviour” at the National Bilibid Prison.
“RA 10592 is a good law. It is consistent with the principles of restorative justice,” said Hontiveros, chairman of the Senate Committee on Women and Children.
“Truly repentant and rehabilitated inmates should be given the chance to reintegrate into society. But only if their actions mirror positive behavioral change, accountability and genuine remorse,” she said.
Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin agreed with the senator.
“Make no mistake about it, Republic Act 10592 is a good law, it seeks to promote a rehabilitation criminal justice. It seeks to unclog the country’s overly populated jails. However, there is a need to determine whether the criterion used in the implementing rules of the law is consistent with the very law it seeks to implement,” he said.
He said Sanchez should serve his full sentence.
“To do otherwise would be an injustice to the victims of Sanchez and a patent infraction of Republic Act 10592 and the pertinent provisions of the Revised Penal Code,” he said.
Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo shared the same sentiment during her weekly radio show.
“GCTA is good because it gives people the chance to reform their lives. But Sanchez himself refuses to admit what he did, and even makes it look like he was framed by his political enemies. How do we give that a second chance?” Robredo said.
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