Drilon, Sotto question basis for possible release of ex-Mayor Sanchez

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019   •   343

Senate President Vicente Sotto III (L) and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon (R)

MANILA, Philippines – The possible early release from jail of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted for rape and murder of two students in the 1990s, has sparked outrage among the public including several senators.

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

The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier said Sanchez might soon walk free due to a 2013 law that increased good conduct time allowance (GCTA) and a Supreme court ruling last June applying this law retroactively.

The application of good conduct time allowance, which reduces the years and days spent in jail has been stated in the Philippine Revised Penal Code.

But under the Republic Act 10592 signed by then President Benigno S. Aquino III in May 2013, the periods that may be credited for good conduct to inmates was expanded.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who was the country’s justice secretary during Sanchez’s conviction, said he was shocked and saddened by the news and questioned the applicability of the new GCTA rule to Sanchez.

READ: Drilon seeks Senate probe on reduced sentence of convicted rapist ex-Mayor Sanchez

Drilon cited the allegations of possession of illegal drugs against Sanchez in 2006 when a prison guard found a packet of shabu and marijuana in his jail cell. In 2010, he was again caught with P1.5 million worth of shabu.

Five years after, authorities seized an air conditioning unit and a television set from his cell.

“Ang balita ay involved siya sa drug trade sa Muntinlupa. Paano naman siya nagkaroon ng allowance for conduct of good behavior? Ang balita pa natin ay mayroon siyang aircon sa kaniyang kulungan. Paano naman naging good conduct ito?” Drilon said.

“Is Mayor Sanchez really qualified under RA 10592? This is a question of fact, so it is best for the Department of Justice to put on hold its decision until these issues are resolved,” he added.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III echoed Drilon’s sentiments.

“Possession of illegal drugs is good behavior?” he asked.

Both senators warned the Bureau of Corrections and the Bureau of Pardon and Parole to carefully compute sentence reduction of Sanchez and the thousands of other inmates who may be eligible for early release under the new rule.

“Kapag sila ay hindi nag-comply sa law o nagkaroon ng maling computation they can be subject to one year imprisonment, P100,000 fine and perpetual disqualification from office pati sa mga nagko-compute ng mali aba ay mananagot pa sila,” Sotto said.

“Kung talagang ipipilit nila, I would assist the Sarmenta family to bring the case before the regular courts. Iku-question natin ang exercise of the discretion to release Antonio Sanchez,” Drilon said.

The two senators have filed separate resolutions calling on their colleagues to probe into the sentence reduction of Sanchez, and amend the provision of the Republic Act 10592 to exclude from the granting of pardon and parole those who were found guilty of committing heinous crimes.

“Basta’t classified na heinous crimes hindi dapat mag-qualify, dapat reclusion perpetua ka tutal ayaw nyo ng death penalty sige reclusion perpetua ka. You die in your cell,” Sotto said. (RRD with details from Grace Casin)

PNP prepares to launch manhunt ops for GCTA-freed convicts still at large

Robie de Guzman   •   September 13, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday said it has formed tracker teams in preparation for the manhunt operations against beneficiaries of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law who will fail to comply with President Rodrigo Duterte’s 15-day deadline.

The PNP said the 121 tracker teams formed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) will be deployed at the end of the 15-day period, which will be on Sept. 19.

There are only six days left before the deadline lapses.

“Nag-organize na agad tayo ng mga teams ng CIDG sa bawat regional offices sa mga provincials at cities,” PNP-CIDG deputy director for administration Police Brigadier General Bernabe Balba told UNTV News in a phone interview.

The president on Sept. 4 ordered convicts who were freed early for good behavior to present themselves within the said period to the nearest police station or to the military.

This is for the investigation and recomputation of their good conduct credits whether they are eligible to avail of the law.

Duterte warned they will be treated as fugitives if they fail to surrender within the given period.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government earlier said it is eyeing to get the help of the International Police (INTERPOL) in arresting heinous crimes convicts freed due to GCTA. This is after they received information that some of the 1,914 released convicts have already left the country.

READ: DILG eyes Interpol, ASEAN police aid in catching GCTA-freed convicts abroad

Balba said that as early as now, tracker teams have started perusing the list of freed heinous criminals who are still at large, as well as their personal information in order to locate their possible whereabouts.

“Even before the deadline ay tumutulong na tayo na malocate at meron din namang namang nagsu-surrender in fact as of today ay nakapagtala na tayo ng 47 surrenderers sa CIDG,” he said.

Data from the PNP showed that as of 6 a.m. Friday, around 353 heinous crimes convicts freed due to GCTA have surrendered to authorities.

Of this number, 115 were convicted for murder while 108 were involved in rape cases.

Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) Regional Police Office has the highest number of surrenderers with 51 followed by Cagayan Valley (Police Regional Office 2) with 35.

The PNP said 234 of the total number of surrendered convicts have been turned over to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor). RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

Roxas, De Lima on GCTA controversy: Why blame the IRR?

UNTV News   •   September 12, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas and detained Senator Leila de Lima have broken their silence amid reports linking them to the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.

Roxas and De Lima were among those who drafted the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

The Office of the Ombudsman has requested Roxas and De Lima to explain why the provisions concerning convicts of heinous crimes in relation to the GCTA privilege was not clarified in the IRR.

But the former Interior chief maintained that the IRR shouldn’t be blamed just because the law wasn’t properly implemented.

In a tweet, Roxas stressed that those who approved the convicts’ release order should face the questioning, not those who drafted the IRR.

He accused his critics of passing the buck because of the controversial law.

Nevertheless, Roxas vowed to appear and cooperate in the Ombudsman’s probe.

“Apparently iimbestigahan ng Ombudsman itong (The Ombudsman will probe this) GCTA issue. Well and good, at masasagot ko kung ano man ang mga tanong nila (I will have the chance to answer their questions),” Roxas tweeted.

Meanwhile, De Lima expressed doubts over the intention behind the linking of her name to the GCTA issue when she has nothing to do with the controversy.

“I find this development highly irregular,” the lady senator said in a statement.

De Lima emphasized that the focus of the probe should be on whether or not the officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) followed the rules and reviewed the cases using the proper guidelines of releasing a convict under GCTA.

Roxas and De Lima were given three days to respond to the request of the Ombudsman.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman has launched a fact-finding investigation to determine the alleged irregularities in the implementation of the GCTA law. — MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

GCTA surrenderer calls on Duterte for ‘mercy’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 12, 2019

“Inamin ko iyong kaso ko na hindi ko naman ginawa, (I admitted to a crime I did not commit,” Lando said.

Lando, not his real name, said he had good behavior during his time in prison. He was released under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law last January 2017.

He also said he did not pay for anything to avail the benefits of the GCTA law.

But after President Rodrigo Duterte’s order, he had no choice but to surrender. However, he calls on the president to give inmates like him a chance.

“Dapat alam din ni presidente ang damdamin ng mahirap. Sana maawa siya doon sa mga taong gusto talagang magbagong buhay, (The president should also consider poor people’s feelings. I hope he shows mercy to those individuals who really want to change their lives),” he said.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) assured that they will release inmates who really deserve to be released.

According to BuCor PIO Chief Sr. Insp. Eusebio Del Rosario Jr., they will provide clearance to those who are really eligible to be released “in accordance with the policy or the law.”

“Kung hindi sila mag-qualify dito o upon the re-computation kung mayroon pa silang natitirang sentensya na kailangang i-serve, itutuloy nila iyon, (If they did not qualify here or upon the re-computation, or they still have remaining sentence they need to serve, they have to continue it)” he said.—AAC (with reports from Sherwin Culubong)

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