Excluded from GCTA or not? Why Sanchez's release was 'a possibility'
Antonio Sanchez is a former Laguna town mayor who was convicted for the murder of two college students, one of whom he also raped, more than two decades ago—a crime dubbed as a “plot seemingly hatched in hell.”
The STAR, file

Excluded from GCTA or not? Why Sanchez's release was 'a possibility'

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - September 2, 2019 - 12:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — Reports that convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez may walk free soon might have blocked his release, but these have also opened up a discussion on whether a person found guilty of committing a heinous crime should benefit from Good Conduct and Time Allowance, which rewards prisoners for good conduct by deducting days from their sentences.

The Senate on Monday looked into the provisions of Republic Act 10592, which expanded the GCTA, and the supposed qualification of Sanchez, the former Laguna town mayor who ordered the killing of two University of the Philippines students in 1993.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Bureau of Corrections Director General Nicanor Faeldon gave statements showing two legal opinions that may have brought the "possibility" of Sanchez's early release from prison.

EXPLAINER: Good law, bad man: RA 10592 and rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez

The prevailing interpretation: Sec 3 of RA 10592

Faeldon explained to the lawmakers that the Bureau of Corrections has been following the Implementing Rules and Regulations, drafted in 2013, in processing the inmates’ GCTA.

He said that Section 1 of RA 10592, which discussed preventive imprisonment, stated that heinous crimes offenders are not granted time allowances.

"But as far as the bureau is concerned and based on the Uniform Manual, which was later on passed, Section 3 of RA 10592, talks about Article 96 of the Revised Penal Code, it does not exclude any convict of any crime," Faeldon explained.

The BuCor chief explained that all convicts, if they behave in jail and spend their time in custody studying or mentoring, are granted GCTA.

“What is very clear here is the process they used was never changed since 2014, up to this day,” Faeldon said.

“Not a single [Persons Deprived of Liberty] who has committed a heinous crime has been denied of GCTA,” he added.

BuCor data made public last week showed that 1,914 convicts of heinous crimes have had their GCTAs granted since 2014 and were subsequently released.

READ: Panelo wants freed 'heinous crimes' convicts back in prison, but time allowances are 'irrevocable'

Justice secretary: DOJ harmonized provisions of RA 10592

The Justice Secretary had earlier made public his interpretation of the provisions of RA 10592.

He said that what Faeldon told the Senate panel seems to be the “prevailing rule” before public outrage over the prospect of Sanchez being released brought the law under scrutiny.

"What the chief of the BuCor said seems to be the prevailing rule before public outrage happened in the case of Mayor Sanchez, so up to that point, it was technically a possibility that he may actually enjoy the benefit of GCTA law," Guevarra explained.

But Guevarra said that the outrage against Sanchez’s release opened up an opportunity for the Department of Justice to review the implementation of the provisions of the law.

"We at the DOJ tried to harmonize the various provisions that seemed to be not consistent with each other," he said.

The Justice chief said that there was no "sole provision" or a standalone section that says "habitual delinquents, recidivists, escapists or persons charged with heinous crimes are not covered by the benefits under this act."

He said that if there was, "there probably would be no confusions."

Guevarra added that after a careful and thorough review, the DOJ concluded: "The proper interpretation of that law in so far as the exclusions are concerned is... to exclude those convicted of heinous crimes from the benefit of the GCTA."

"That is the present position of the DOJ, under my administration," Guevarra added.

READ: Palace backs DOJ: Sanchez ineligible for 'good conduct' release

The DOJ and the Department of Interior and Local Government, in a joint order last week, created an inter-agency committee that is tasked to draft a guideline for GCTA.

The processing of inmates’ GCTA has temporarily been suspended, pending the report of the inter-agency committee.

READ: Inter-agency panel to review rules on inmates' time allowances

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