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Senators’ call: Trash GCTA

The Filipino people want answers and solutions, not endless debates and more questions

Mario J. Mallari

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SENATOR Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go stresses his position against the grant of freedom to convicts of heinous crimes as his fellow lawmakers listen intently.

Amid the differing interpretations of Republic Act 10592, or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go yesterday filed a bill that seeks to clear guidelines in the implementation of the law and disqualifies all inmates convicted of heinous crimes from enjoying a chance at freedom.

Among those who could not avail of liberty should be former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, said Go, referring to the former Calauan, Laguna mayor who raped and ordered the murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) student Aileen Sarmenta and the killing of her companion Allan Gomez.

In Senate Bill 1003, Go stated a provision that clearly disallows those convicted of heinous crimes from earning time allowances.

For further clarity, the neophyte senator also listed down the heinous crimes which should not merit freedom points.

“As I have mentioned yesterday and several times before, the Filipino people want answers and solutions, not endless debates and more questions,” said Go during yesterday’s Senate inquiry by the Blue Ribbon and Justice committees.

“Today, I have solutions. I filed Senate Bill 1003 to clearly state the intent and policy of the law not to extend the benefits of GCTA to prisoners who are convicted of heinous crimes,” he added.
In addition, he also placed a provision that will allow review of all those who availed of the GCTA Law.

“To eliminate corruption, I also added a provision stating that any release of prisoners on the basis of time allowances shall be subject to review,” Go explained.

“Congress will also know what is happening with the releases, as the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) will be required to furnish the legislature with a report twice a year,” he added.
He stressed that “all of these will form part of our continuing fight against corruption and criminality, and illegal drugs.”

While acknowledging the vagueness of the law, the senator expressed belief that there was neither corruption nor negligence within the BuCor.

“The law may be ambiguous, but what is clear to me is that there is neither negligence nor corruption in the way our correctional system is being handled. I say to the Filipino people — those who err will pay,” Go said.

Relatedly, three senators also filed a bill seeking to repeal RA 10592 used in the release of nearly 2,000 inmates convicted of heinous crimes.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senators Richard Gordon and Panfilo Lacson on Monday filed Senate Bill (SB) 993, which would scrap RA 10592 — the law being used as basis in the botched release of Sanchez.

However, the law has already resulted in the freedom of 1,914 inmates, including three individuals convicted of the Chiong sisters kidnapping with rape and homicide case, and big-time drug lords.

Among those released were 29 convicted of parricide; 797 for murder; five for kidnapping and illegal detention; 275 robbery with violence or intimidation; three for destructive arson; 758 for rape, and 48 for illegal drugs.

The SB 993 seeks to repeal the amendments in Articles 29, 94, 97, 98 and 99 of the Revised Penal Code as contained under RA 10592.

Sotto, Lacson and Gordon said the intention of the framers of Senate Bill 3064, introduced during the 15th Congress and which brought about RA 10592, was primarily to grant good conduct allowance to persons deprived of liberty while their cases are pending before the courts.

The purpose of GCTA, they said, is laudable in decongesting the overpopulated prison cells.

“However, when it was enacted into law, it caused an absurd interpretation and its very provisions needed harmonization,” they said, adding that it has been subject to abuse by the persons allowed by law to grant time allowances.

RA 10592 was enacted on 29 May 2013.

The BuCor, under director general Nicanor Faeldon, has applied the GCTA law to all inmates, including those convicted of heinous crimes like Sanchez.

During Monday’s Senate inquiry, presided over by Gordon, it was found that Faeldon already signed a memorandum order, which he claimed could have started the process of Sanchez’s release, but which he recalled immediately.

The memorandum was dated 20 August.

The impending release of Sanchez, however, triggered a public uproar.

Sanchez has been sentenced to suffer the maximum penalty of seven 40-year imprisonment or seven counts of reclusion perpetua for one the most sensational crimes in the 1990s, the rape and murder of Sarmenta and the murder Gomez — both students of the UPLB.

In their explanatory note, Sotto, Lacson and Gordon said there’s logical reason to abandon the grant of GCTA if the magnitudes of its aftermath are prejudicial for many of the victims and their relatives who are seeking justice.

“The provision on GCTA has been in effect since the 1930s and it has not raised this kind of concern from the people and the government. Thus, it is an opportune time to go back to the old law where no question of proper implementation has been put forth to the government and prisoners are enjoying its benefits without a question of the propriety of its applicability on them,” they said.

“The law is always changing. It is usually reactive to what the society dictates and it constantly reflects changes that occurs in our society because a law is simply never perfect,” the senators added.

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