Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, at 95, may be old, but he still has some sense left in him.
The feisty Enrile climbed out of his rocking chair in defense of the controversial Republic Act 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law being blamed for the mess that resulted in the early release of a number of prisoners, including those involved in heinous crimes.
The former senator pointed to the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) created by detained Sen. and former secretary of Justice Leila de Lima and then Interior secretary Mar Roxas as the real culprits for the can of worms opened at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
The GCTA is clear and needs no amendment, says Enrile, who was Senate President when the GCTA Law that expanded credits for good inmates, was enacted.
Section 1 of that law, he says, explicitly excluded, among others, heinous crimes, as within the coverage of that good conduct allowance.
“I understand what happened was the IRR, instead of respecting Section 1 of the amendatory law, included heinous crimes that was excluded from the law,” he said, pointing out that De Lima and Roxas should be disqualified forever for holding any public office.
“Nobody can change, not even the President, the law of Congress,” he emphasized.
De Lima, who is a lawyer, should have known better. The IRR, we understand, is all about how to implement the law, not violate it. In the case of the GCTA, De Lima and Roxas must have gone beyond the line.
It is very elementary that nothing can change the law unless Congress acts to change it. But they did. And that, Enrile can’t understand.
“They have no right to that. They do not deserve their positions,” Enrile said in a recent interview, much to the protestation of Roxas.
The losing presidential candidate of the 2016 elections stressed that the provision that disqualified heinous crime convicts from benefitting from the law is not missing in the IRR, citing Rule IV Section 6.
Enrile maintained however that senators, during his time in the Senate, reviewed all the provisions of the GCTA Law before they signed it. He also expressed the belief that the inclusion of those charged with heinous crimes under the IRR is unconstitutional, non-existent and void ab initio.
He says former BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon, as implementor of the law, was only being guided by the IRR.
“He is not a lawyer. The ones that should be made responsible are those people that made the IRR,” said Enrile, referring to De Lima and Roxas.
While he supports the revision of the IRR to make sure it will conform with the law, Enrile was adamant in saying that the GCTA Law should not be amended.
Instead, he says, changes should be introduced in the Revised Penal Code which should include the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) in the process of reviewing the list of prisoners eligible for release upon the application of the GCTA.
He also mentions that after the BPP, the Office of the President should be the final approving authority in the release of the prison.
For all his so-called troubling legacy, Enrile, we have to admit, has played an extraordinary role in Philippine public life. As a consummate lawyer, he can be counted to give his five cents’ worth that often counts. As one article points out, he has survived everything that has been thrown at him through brinkmanship that took him to the edges of the political abyss.
And in this, the twilight of a career that has spanned decades, we still see him trudging on, unmindful of who gets hurt.