August 27, 2019
SOME officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) may have committed fraud for including the name of former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez in the list of inmates who would be freed under Republic Act (RA) 10592, or the “Good Conduct Time Allowance” (GCTA) Law, according to the Department of Justice (DoJ).
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has created a task force to review the implementation of the GCTA policy by the BuCor.
“That possibility [of fraud] may actually come out dito sa review na gagawin namin ng (in our review of) BuCor guidelines and procedures,” Guevarra told The Manila Times.
He said Corrections officials should have determined from the beginning that Sanchez was not qualified for early release because of the gravity of his offense and the infractions he committed behind bars.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a former Justice secretary, agreed with Guevarra. “There is negligence, if not corruption, at the [BuCor],” he said.
“I support the DoJ’s decision. I could not help but suspect that there are shenanigans happening inside the BuCor in favor of the rich and powerful inmates, including former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez,” he said in a statement.
“The temporary suspension may affect prisoners who are really entitled for an early release, based on good conduct time allowance. But with the people, including myself, worrying about the release of prisoners like Sanchez, the temporary suspension, pending review of the guidelines, is a welcome development,” the senator added.
Drilon said if Sanchez’s violations were properly listed, the BuCor would not have announced that the former mayor had served 49 years.
“We must look into the records or what we called the prisoners’ karpeta, particularly that of Sanchez, and let’s find out if his violations were properly recorded,” he said.
“How much does it cost for Sanchez’s karpeta, or that of any powerful and rich inmates, to be cleared of violations?”
Sanchez was meted seven life terms for the rape and slay of Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of her boyfriend Allan Gomez. The former mayor was also convicted for murder in the Peñalosa slay case.
His infractions inside the New Bilibid Prisons include being involved in illegal drugs.
The BuCor last week said Sanchez could be among the 11,000 prisoners who would be released under the GCTA Law.
The announcement was met with a storm of opposition from various groups, prompting the DoJ to order an investigation of the BuCor guidelines in implementing the law.
On Monday, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the DoJ and BuCor not to release Sanchez.
“Miyerkules pa lang ng gabi [last week] narinig ko na po kay Pangulong Duterte na nag-order na po siya na hindi ire-release si Sanchez (It was on Wednesday last week that I heard President Duterte giving the order not to release Sanchez),” Go said.
The senator said Sanchez would not qualify for early release because he was convicted of heinous crimes.
Because of the furor raised over the plan to release Sanchez, some senators said RA 10592 should be amended to plug the loopholes in the GCTA Law.
Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senator Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson agreed that those convicted of heinous crimes and recidivists must not benefit from the law.
Zubiri said he would file on Tuesday, August 27, a bill amending RA 10592 “by making it specific that convicts of heinous crimes especially those such as murder, drug trafficking, kidnap for ransom and other highly dangerous criminals cannot avail of the program.”
“Everyone now will be afraid to testify and go against criminals of heinous crimes. These individuals are too dangerous to be released back in the streets and imagine the families and individuals who testified against them will be in extreme danger,” he said in a text message.
“So, let’s clearly define that there will be no commutation of life sentences for certain crimes, no exemptions. That way there should be no more controversies such as this one of mayor Sanchez happening again,” Zubiri added.
Sought for reaction on the Justice department’s move to suspend the early release of convicts, Sotto said, “[That’s] precisely the purpose of my resolution. Review and perhaps amend [the GCTA Law]. Suspension is the right action.”
“A thorough review of the computation and application of GCTA is indeed a welcome move,” Lacson said in a text message.
While Drilon supported the DoJ’s prompt action, he raised some serious concerns.
“Are there prisoners that have been freed in the past based on the good conduct time allowance law? Are there inmates, who were sentenced guilty of heinous crimes, that have been released before the DoJ ruled that those guilty of heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage of the law? If yes, how do we plan to bring them back to prison?” he asked.
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