âGood conductâ processing may be suspended
“We’re considering seriously the need to temporarily suspend the processing of GCTAs until the BuCor guidelines are reviewed and firmed up,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters yesterday.

‘Good conduct’ processing may be suspended

Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Amid the uproar over the near release from prison of convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it is now considering suspending the processing of good conduct time allowance (GCTA) cases in the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

“We’re considering seriously the need to temporarily suspend the processing of GCTAs until the BuCor guidelines are reviewed and firmed up,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters yesterday.

The justice chief recently ordered the BuCor – an attached agency of the DOJ – to review the guidelines for computing prisoners’ GCTA, a few days after the department drew flak for announcing Sanchez’s possible release on the basis of the GCTA law.

Sanchez, former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, was convicted in 1995 for raping and killing University of the Philippines (UP)-Los Baños students Eileen Sarmenta and her friend Allan Gomez in 1993.

Asked how the suspension in the processing of GCTA would affect qualified prisoners, Guevarra said they have to be given more time “because of the large numbers of the persons deprived of liberty involved.”

“Mas mabilis na ang processing basta maayos at maliwanag ang mga guidelines (Processing will be faster if the guidelines are clear),” Guevarra said.

He explained “the retroactive effect given to the law suddenly created a deluge of GCTAs for re-computation,” referring to the Supreme Court (SC) ruling, that allowed a retroactive application of Republic Act 10592.

The SC clarified on Friday that it did not order the release of Sanchez, but had only interpreted the law.

Guevarra also shrugged off detained Sen. Leila de Lima’s accusation that the DOJ’s earlier announcement of Sanchez’s possible release was a ploy to drum up support for the revival of the death penalty.

“Senator De Lima is free to think what she wants to think,” Guevarra told reporters.

DOJ spokesman and Undersecretary Mark Perete also said they would rather not comment on De Lima’s statement “so as not to dignify unfounded and purely imagined accusations of some insidious agenda.”

“Was the premature, reckless announcement of the impending release of former Mayor Sanchez, a patently ineligible inmate under the GCTA Law, meant to be a propaganda blitz to drumbeat support for the death penalty?” De Lima on Friday.

“I think they’re sabotaging the law to push for the death penalty. They’re stoking anger among the people so as to make the death penalty more acceptable. Devious minds,” she said.

To avoid an unfair application of GCTA, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he would be pushing for the disqualification from the program of convicts involved in heinous crimes. If his suggestion is rejected, Sotto said over dwIZ he would just propose a different computation for GCTA for years served for heinous crimes. In his proposal, heinous crime convicts may avail of the benefits of the GCTA only after serving the first 10 years of their sentence.

He said the computation for heinous crimes should be different from ordinary crimes.

Sotto and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon have filed separate resolutions seeking a Senate investigation into the Sanchez controversy.

The Senate president said the GCTA law was designed to benefit aging inmates who displayed good behavior.

Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said releasing Sanchez would be a “mockery of the law and the justice system.”

Año said that he agreed with the latest pronouncement of the DOJ and the Bucor that Sanchez would not be eligible for release under the provisions of RA 10592.

“He has to serve his sentence up to the last minute, he must serve his entire sentence. Kapag pinalaya natin ‘yan ng maaga (If we set him free), we would have punctured a hole in our own justice system,” Año said in a statement.

Malacanang has already ruled out a shortened prison time for Sanchez, citing results of DOJ’s re-evaluation of his case. – With Cecille Suerte-Felipe, Romina Cabrera

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