September 11, 2019
THE Republic Act (RA) 10592, or Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law, if implemented according to its lofty ideals, would give a second lease on life to convicted criminals — except those who committed heinous crimes — who have behaved well in prison and with the real intent of going back to the mainstream as reformed men and women.
The impact of the law on the broader society, again if implemented based on its lofty ideals, would be immense. The crowded jails would be decongested. The budgetary allocation for the correctional system would ease up. The ex-criminals who return to the mainstream with the best of intentions will take on any job just to prove their worth, and this would fill up jobs that very few and only the desperate would take.
The current knee-jerk reactions to the GCTA, which came in the wake of the Sanchez release fiasco, are totally unnecessary. What the law probably needs is an iron-clad provision that states that the dregs like Sanchez are not covered.
The truth is the GCTA is a policy reform of the prison system that is tempered and moderate, once viewed in the context of what developed economies have been doing. If you are observant enough, you will be electrified by what is going on in San Francisco, one of the world’s wealthiest and most liberal cities, in relation to the upcoming election of its new district attorney or DA.
One of the candidates is Chesa Boudin, a Yale-trained lawyer. Both his parents, members of the radical group called Weather Underground (many men of my age are familiar with the actions of this group and that was during general period of the First Quarter Storm), started their long prison sentences when Chesa was just 14 months old. The dad is still in prison and a parole consideration will only come upon reaching 112 years old. His mother, released earlier, has earned her PhD.
This sums up the campaign philosophy of Boudin and what he stands against: “Money bail instead of equal justice. Solitary confinement instead of meaningful treatment. Building prisons instead of funding education.”
Boudin also promises to close down most of San Francisco jails under a sweeping criminal justice and prison reform plank.
The GCTA, or what comes close to our own version of a well-intended prison reform program, is the most talked-about law in the country right now because the usual suspects have taken advantage of the law to make money illegally. Around 1,900 convicts jailed for heinous crimes, including the killers of the Chiong sisters of Cebu City, have been freed under the GCTA.
The GCTA Law excludes those who were jailed for heinous crimes, and the mass release from jail of 1,900 convicts could have only been fast-tracked by money changing hands. The Ombudsman is now looking into the culpability of past and present Bureau of Correction (BuCor) officials. Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto 3rd said he had received reliable information that, indeed, there is a “freedom for sale” racket going on at the National Bilibid Prisons.
Some of the 1,900 may be already out of the authorities’ reach as they may have slipped out of the country. Of course, they will be treated as “fugitives” after the presidential deadline on their surrender lapses. The problem is that those capable of committing heinous crimes are not easily threatened. What if they have now assumed new identifies?
If they can pay for their release, they can also pay to acquire new identities.
RA 11203, or the “Rice Tariffication Law,” is definitely a bad law — a very, very bad law. When a law literally sentences three million small rice farmers with the death penalty — and invents token amelioration such as pledging tariff collections from unlimited rice imports to supposedly ease the rice farmers’ misery — that is, at best, a brutal practice of social darwinism. The state is parent to all its citizens and this doctrine was established early on by the English in the grand state concept of parens patriae.
The state, through the laws it passes, does not choose winners and losers, which it precisely did when it passed the Rice Tariffication Law. The law has condemned small rice farmers, all three million of them, into a life of hell. Right now, palay prices hover between P8 to P10 per kilogram, a price that does not fully cover the cost of seeds, fertilizers and diesel for the shallow tube wells.
The rock-bottom palay prices could have been cushioned by real subsidies and support from the collected rice tariffs. But then again, here is the rub.
A farmers group, the Federation of Free Farmers, has been tracking the volume of rice imports post-tariffication. This has been the gist of its work. The rice imports reported at the customs zone have been massively underpriced, precisely to lower the tax payments. The lower payments naturally depress the volume of tariff collections, the money pool that would go the amelioration program for rice farmers.
Put simply, this is the reality. Farmers are dying and rice importers are deliberately depressing the rice tariffs via undervaluation of rice imports to inflict a second death sentence on the small farmers.
Senators, like Caligulas playing the flute as the nation burns, are still extolling the “virtues” of the Rice Tariffication Law.
What a country. What a people.
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