3 Senators want GCTA law repealed

Robie de Guzman   •   September 3, 2019   •   397

Senate President Vicente Sotto III (center) together with Senators Panfilo Lacson (right) and Richard Gordon (left) want GCTA law to be repealed.

MANILA, Philippines – Three senators have jointly filed a bill seeking to repeal the controversial Republic Act (RA) 10592, the law that increased the good conduct and time allowance (GCTA) for inmates.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III together with Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon on Monday filed Senate Bill No. 993 which proposes to scrap the GCTA law that was enacted in May 2013.

The measure particularly seeks to repeal the amendments in Articles 29, 94, 97, 98 and 99 of the Revised Penal Code as contained under RA 10592.

Amendments contained in the GCTA law provides for partial extinction of criminal liability, including conditional pardon, commutation of sentence by allowing good conduct to be credited in the reduction of stay in detention.

The bill was filed amid a Senate inquiry into the questionable application of the law following the aborted release of convicted murderer-rapist, former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez who was sentenced to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua for raping and killing Eileen Sarmenta and murdering her friend, Allan Gomez.

The senators said the early release of some convicts involved in heinous crime, including Sanchez, has sparked public outrage and prompted the upper chamber to look into the propriety of the law’s application in general.

Sotto, Lacson and Gordon cited Senate Bill 3064 filed in 15th Congress that became the basis of the GCTA, saying the intention of the framers “was primarily to grant good conduct allowance to persons deprived of liberty (PDL) while their case is still pending.”

The senators said the purpose of the measure is laudable in decongesting the overpopulated prison cells in the country.

“However, when it was enacted into law, it caused an absurd interpretation and its very provisions needed harmonization,” they said in a statement, adding that it has been subject to abuse by the persons allowed by law to grant time allowances.

In their explanatory note for the bill, Sotto, Lacson and Gordon said there’s logical reason to abandon the grant of GCTA if the magnitudes of its aftermath “are prejudicial for many of the victims and their relatives who are seeking justice.”

“The provision on GCTA has been in effect since the 1930s and it has not raised this kind of concern from the people and the government. Thus, it is an opportune time to go back to the old law where no question of proper implementation has been put forth to the government and prisoners are enjoying its benefits without a question of the propriety of its applicability on them,” they said.

“The law is always changing. It is usually reactive to what the society dictates and it constantly reflects changes that occur in our society because a law is simply never perfect,” the senators added.

The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights joined the Committees on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, Finance and Blue Ribbon have conducted an inquiry into the alleged early release of Sanchez and the implementation of the law.

Villanueva pushes for grassroots approach to develop Filipino athletes

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 15, 2019

Senator Joel Villanueva

Senator Joel Villanueva said there is a need for a grassroots approach in order to develop Filipino athletes.

In a statement, the senator said the lack of organization at the grassroots level prevents our national sports associations from getting the athletes who can be trained to compete in the long term.

“Talent is scattered everywhere in our 7,000 islands, and it is up to us in government to be able to find these people and cultivate their skills so they can carry on with our quest to deliver the country’s first Olympic gold in over 90 years since we first competed in the Games,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva made the statement after the recent wins of gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxer Nesthy Petecio over the weekend.

READ: PSC to provide cash incentives to athletes Yulo, Petecio, Marcial et al

Meanwhile, Villanueva and other senators continue to push for the proposed bill that will create the Philippine High School for Sports. It is an institution that will raise the quality of our young athletes which will make them competitive in the world stage.

“We will see to it that the proposed measure will live up to the dreams of our young athletes of having a specialized school that trains our future champions,” according to Villanueva.—AAC

New witnesses, evidence to appear in Senate probe on ‘ninja cops’ issue – Sotto

Robie de Guzman   •   October 8, 2019

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

MANILA, Philippines – The next Senate hearing on the issue of illegal drug recycling scheme involving several cops, and the anomalies at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) will be “explosive,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday.

In a press briefing at the Manila Hotel, Sotto told reporters that new pieces of evidence and new witnesses will appear when the Senate justice and blue ribbon committees resume their joint inquiry on Wednesday.

“I do not know if I’m at liberty to tell you but there is really something explosive again. I think there will be new evidence, one or two new witnesses because I signed nine subpoenas last night,” he said.

Sotto said Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino and former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief and now Baguio City mayor Benjamin Magalong will still be invited to the hearing.

Sotto added the investigation on Wednesday will also reveal more information about the controversial anti-drug operation in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013 which involved 13 police officers earlier tagged as ‘ninja cops.’

“Pinagkukuha ang sasakyan ni Johnson Lee that will be part of the investigation tomorrow na lalabas yung mga sasakyan na tinira,” he said.

The 13 cops, led by then Supt. Rodney Baloyo, allegedly made off with kilograms of shabu worth millions that they seized from an anti-drug operation on alleged Chinese drug lord Johnson Lee.

Baloyo’s team was also accused of setting Lee free in exchange for P50 million and presented another Chinese national as a drug suspect.

The police officers were ordered dismissed in 2014 while Albayalde, who was then the head of Pampanga provincial police, was relieved from his post for command responsibility.

The dismissal order, however, was not implemented as the police officers were only demoted in 2017.

Magalong and Aquino both accused Albayalde of intervening in the case of his former subordinates, which the latter denied.

On the alleged anomalies at the BuCor, Sotto said bureau officers Mabel Bansil and Veronica Buño have revealed new information regarding the irregularities in the implementation of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) rule.

“Marami silang sinabi eh, sa executive session, ang mga sinabi nila related to their work,” he said.

The Senate initially started its inquiry into the questionable release of heinous crimes convicts under the expanded GCTA law, which witnesses claimed were given for a price by corrupt BuCor officials.

It later went on to probe the alleged recycling and reselling of illegal drugs by some rogue policemen. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Grace Casin)

BuCor officials in ‘GCTA for sale’ controversy still under Senate custody

Marje Pelayo   •   October 4, 2019

Joint Senate committee hearing led by the committee on justice and human rights chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon on the Good Conduct Time Allowance controversy and the so-called “ninja cops” on Thursday, October 3. PRIB/JOSEPH VIDAL

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) awaits the recommendation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on whether or not to accept under witness protection program (WPP) two of the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) officials involved in the Good Conduct Time Allowance controversy or the ‘GCTA for sale.’

The controversy placed the two BuCor officials, Senior Inspector Maria Belinda ‘Mabel’ Bansil and Officer 3 Veronica ‘Boday’ Buño, in hot water after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) revealed the result of its forensic examination on Buño’s cellular phone.

The two were accused of offering ‘GCTA for sale’ to relatives of inmates in exchange for their early release from jail.

Blue Ribbon Committee Chair Richard Gordon offered Bansil and Buño to subject themselves under WPP but Buño insisted that she didn’t have any personal knowledge about the controversy.

“Wala po talaga akong personal knowledge (I have no personal knowledge),” Buño said.

“Pero iyong mga information po ay napi-feed naman po kahit buong Bureau of Corrections ay alam (But all information was fed and known to the entire Bureau of Corrections),” she added.

The Senate wants to delve deeper into the matter particularly to confirm the alleged deleted exchange of text messages between Bansil and Buño which mentioned names of other BuCor officials including Faeldon and some amount related to the GCTA.

Unless the two disclose their knowledge about the alleged ‘GCTA for sale,’ they will remain under the custody of the Senate after the body cited them in contempt.

Gordon gave Bansil and Buño two to three days to speak on what they know about the matter.

Only then will the Senate hold an executive session to discuss whether or not they will recommend the two to be placed under WPP.

If they agree, they will be entitled to government protection and benefits under Republic Act 6981, otherwise known as ‘The Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act.”

According to the provision of the Law, a person under WPP is entitled to the following:

1. Security protection and escort services;

2. Immunity from criminal prosecution and not to be subjected to any penalty or forfeiture for any transaction, matter or thing concerning his compelled testimony or books, documents or writings produced;

3. A secured housing facility;

4. Assistance in obtaining a means of livelihood;

5. Reasonable traveling expenses and subsistence allowance while acting as a witness;

6. Free medical treatment, hospitalization, and medicine for any injury or illness incurred or suffered while acting as a witness;

7. Burial benefits of not less than Ten Thousand pesos (P10,000.00) if the witness is killed because of his participation in the Program;

8. Free education from primary to college level for the minor or dependent children of a witness who dies or is permanently incapacitated; and,

9. Non-removal or demotion in work because of absences due to his being a witness and payment of full salary or wage while acting as a witness.

These benefits are way more than what the Senate can provide which is limited only to security details and free meals.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, said they have not received any sign from the camps of Bansil and Buñoon whether they will accept the government’s offer of protection. – MNP (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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