The simplest explanation given on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) and the impossibility that it can apply to inmates with multiple convictions was given by former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza.
Even with the obfuscation from the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) crafted by former Department of Justice secretary, now detained Sen. Leila de Lima and then Department of the Interior and Local Government secretary Mar Roxas, the provisions of the law simply would not result to the mass release of nearly 2,000 heinous crime offenders.
Since De Lima is being accused of being the overlord of the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison, the early release of drug offenders could have been dangled as a bait to reward cooperation.
Mendoza indicated that in the case of former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez, he is disqualified from availing himself of the law, and the 270 years in prison that the court imposed on him cannot be reduced.
The veteran lawyer, thus, belied some interpretation that Sanchez can cite the three-fold rule that limits to a maximum of 40 years the terms for convicts even for multiple sentences.
His lawyers needed to invoke the legal remedy before applying the GCTA to the reduced sentence.
“I heard Sanchez claimed because he had good time allowance and then he added so it amounted to 40 years. But that does not apply because he did not raise that point. He did not ask the three-fold rule. If you apply the three-fold rule to his judgment, it will have been three times reclusion perpetua or three times 30 or 90 years. Then you can ask for 40 years,” he said.
Sanchez, convicted for rape and murder of University of the Philippines-Los Baños students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez, has a permanent jail term as the sentence rendered and confirmed by the Supreme Court (SC) against Sanchez and his six other cohorts can’t be changed and any GCTA application “must be deducted from that sentence.”
He explained thus: Sanchez was sentenced to nine reclusion perpetua, each of which under the law is counted as 30 years. Nine multiplied by 30 years equals 270. That is the sentence rendered on him which cannot be changed.
“Once rendered, (a sentence) is not subject to change. It is immutable. It must be implemented and rendered as executed by the court,” he noted.
Also, Mendoza explained that a requirement for the reduction of sentence was for Sanchez to admit to the commission of the crime, which did not happen as he had continued to claim his innocence.
Even the GCTA Law may have run counter to jurisprudence, since “the judgment of the SC is well-established. Once rendered, it is not in any way subject to change,” Mendoza pointed out.
Since the GCTA Law, which was enacted in 2013, undercuts the sentences that were rendered by justices and could create a constitutional crisis, it is considered flawed, according to the ace lawyer.
“That (GCTA Law) might be subject to a constitutional question because of our basic principle of separation of powers. The legislature cannot undercut the jurisdiction of the judiciary in rendering a judgment. It cannot render inutile a judgment of a court,” said the Justice secretary of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
He cited the case of the three convicts in the 1997 Chiong sisters’ rape-slay case where he said the proceedings were concluded “because of the will and stamina and strength of the trial judge notwithstanding efforts of the counsel to delay and suspend the proceedings.”
“This cannot be simply swept away by legislation. It is going to be a violation of the separation of powers, which is a basic principle of our constitutional democracy,” he emphasized.
Mendoza’s views only strengthened growing contention that the IRR from which all the confusion emanated were designed to make the law vague and subject to various interpretations to exploit it for political gains. Such arrangements continued until the term of President Rody Duterte, but controversy hounded it when the SC ruled the law retroactive, which Sanchez immediately sought to apply to his case.
Even without the legalese, it was too obvious that some legal genius in the past regime cooked up the idea of twisting the law through the IRR to suit their agenda.