Dela Rosa renews call for death penalty in PH amid talks of Sanchez release

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019   •   629

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa on Thursday renewed his call for the reimposition of death penalty in the country amid talks on the possible release of convicted rapist and murderer, former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

Dela Rosa said the impending release of Sanchez and other inmates convicted of heinous crimes should not have been an issue now if the capital punishment was not abolished.

“Kung sa akin lang kung ganyan ka-heinous ang krimen na ginawa niya (Sanchez) dapat binitay na siya noon di ba, kung may death penalty na noon nabitay na yan… pero wala tayong magawa,” he said in a statement.

Sanchez was sentenced in 1995 to seven terms of reclusion perpetua (or 40 years of imprisonment) over the rape and murder of students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez.

At the time of Sanchez’s conviction, the capital punishment was still in place.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier said Sanchez is among the more than 11,000 other inmates who might soon be freed due to a 2013 law that increased good conduct and time allowance (GCTA) given to inmates and a Supreme court ruling last June applying this law retroactively.

Dela Rosa said the pending release of inmates, especially those who were convicted of heinous crimes, could be averted if the capital punishment is reimposed.

He further noted that existing laws should be observed.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m just on the side of the law. Andiyan yang batas (Republic Act 10592) na ‘yan, dapat respetuhin natin, sundin natin,” he added.

But Sanchez’s eligibility under the new GCTA rule has been questioned by lawmakers and other sectors due to allegations of possession of illegal drugs after a prison guard found a packet of shabu and marijuana in his jail cell. An air condition unit and a television set were also seized from his cell, which are violation of prison rules.

When asked on the validity of releasing Sanchez, Dela Rosa said the DOJ through the Board of Pardons and Parole should explain to the public with regard to the GCTA.

“Well tanungin natin yung Board of Pardons and Parole na nagre-recommend niyan at yung sa loob ng Bureau of Corrections kung paano nila na compute, ang alam ko meron yang computation, may corresponding GCTA yan kung ilan days ang mababawas sa sintensya mo,” he said.

READ: BuCor says convicted ex-Mayor Sanchez may not be eligible for release under new GCTA rule

The Bureau of Corrections earlier said that contrary to earlier reports, Sanchez may not qualify for early release from prison due to several alleged violations of prison rules.

“As far as the Bureau is concerned, dahil nahulihan talaga sa kubol niya nuong 2006, as far as we are concerned, legal ang pagkakahuli sa kaniya… that means definitely disqualified him sa good conduct time allowance,” BuCor director general Nicanor Faeldon said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III questioned whether Sanchez’s case is the best argument for the revival of death penalty.

“7 life sentences, no indemnification, hearings for parole did not inform Sarmenta family. Best argument for death penalty?” Sotto asked in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

Several lawmakers have expressed support for the return of the capital punishment, including Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Pia Cayateno, Bong Go, Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, but only for high level drug trafficking.

While other senators, including Risa Hontiveros, Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Leila de Lima, Ralph Recto and Joel Villanueva expressed opposition to the proposal.

The Philippines abolished the death penalty under the 1987 Constitution. President Fidel Ramos reimposed the capital punishment in 1993 as a crime control measure but President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reinstated its abolition in 2006.

Dela Rosa on Espenido being in drug watchlist: “I am vouching for his integrity.”

Marje Pelayo   •   February 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ronald dela Rosa wants to know the person who included the name of P/Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido in the government’s drug watchlist or list of cops linked to illegal drug trade.

Senator dela Rosa said it surprised him to hear that Espenido’s name was on the list when it wasn’t the case when he was still the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Hindi ko nakita noong panahon ko, otherwise, hindi ko iyan i-a-appoint (I didn’t see (his name) during my time, otherwise, I wouldn’t have appointed him),” the Senator said.

Dela Rosa transferred Espenido from Albuera, Leyte to Ozamiz City.

Espenido spearheaded the raids that resulted in the killing of then Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr. and the downfall of the Parojinog drug chain.

Given Espenido’s service history, dela Rosa expressed doubt as to how his name ended up in the President’s drug watchlist.

“Saan galing yan? Lumabas lang out of thin air? (Where did it come from? Did it appear out of thin air?),” the former PNP Chief said.

He urged that the PNP leadership should investigate how it happened, adding that there might be a ‘syndicate’ inside the PNP who wanted to dishonor their comrades.

“Dapat ungkatin ng PNP kung sino ang gumawa ng report na iyan, most likely sindikato na pulis ang gumawa noon (The PNP should investigate who made that report. It’s most likely a syndicate of cops who did that),” dela Rosa noted.

“Dahil kung andyan pa iyang mga pulis na iyan most likely meron na naman iyang gagawing kalokohan sa ibang kasamahan nila na makakalaban nila (Because if those cops are still in position, most likely they will repeat their follies against other cops who oppose them),” the Senator added.

Senator dela Rosa clarified that Espenido still has his full trust and similar to President Duterte, he doesn’t believe Espenido is involved in illegal drugs trade.

“He is my man I am vouching for his integrity,” dela Rosa said of Espenido.

“Kilala ko siya na matino siya (I have known him as a straight cop),” he concluded. MNP (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

Duterte can scrap PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement without Senate approval – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte can terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States (US) even without the concurrence of the Senate, Malacañang said on Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement after the president threatened to scrap the VFA if the US government does not reverse the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

“Because it (VFA) is an executive agreement so he can cancel it without the approval of the Senate,” Panelo said.

Dela Rosa on Wednesday confirmed to media that he is not allowed to travel to the US for now after he received notification about his visa cancellation.

The senator said the exact reason on why his US visa was cancelled remains unclear but he heard reports it might be linked to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs that he spearheaded when he was the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from 2016 to 2018.

The VFA, signed by Manila and Washington in 1998, is a bilateral deal which outlines the guidelines for the conduct of government troops when they are visiting the US or the Philippines.

Panelo said the US government should not intervene with the Philippines’ internal issues.

The Palace official also believes the president’s threat to cancel the VFA will not affect Filipino workers in the US. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

GCTA law’s revised IRR excludes heinous crimes convicts

Marje Pelayo   •   September 17, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Convicts of heinous crimes are no longer entitled to benefit from the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

After a 10-day review, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra signed on Monday (September 16) the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the GCTA law.

This time, the new rules exclude convicts of heinous crimes.

“We enumerated the persons deprived of liberty (PDL) excluded, recidivist, habitual delinquents, escapees and those charged of heinous crimes,” Guevarra said in a press briefing.

Heinous crimes are also clearly enumerated based on what is defined under Republic Act No. 7659 or the Death Penalty Law and Supreme Court Jurisprudence.

These include treason, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, rape, destructive arson, carnapping with rap or murder and some illegal drug offenses among others.

The provision of transparency is emphasized in which the names of the persons deprived of liberty (PDL) entitled to time allowance or credits should be posted online.

The Justice Department will now be part of the management, screening and evaluation committee and of the accredited civil society organization.

Likewise, the revised IRR clarifies the period of grant of credits and time allowances, but the re-computation of sentences will be detailed in the new manual of the GCTA law.

Guevarra explained that although the assessment is done on a monthly basis, the granting of credits will be on a cumulative basis depending on the overall actions of the PDL during the time of incarceration and not just on his monthly behavior.

“The grant will be done on a cumulative basis so that it is the general conduct of the PDL that will have to be taken into account,” he said.

Because of this, the DOJ assured that former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez, whose alleged record has been questioned due to charges of illegal possession of drugs filed against him in 2006, will not be included in the expanded GCTA.

The DILG and the DOJ have given the joint committee a 60-day extension to review the GCTA law manual or guidelines. – MNP (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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