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

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019   •   606

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)

57 GCTA returnees, 59 parolees walk free in time for the holidays

Marje Pelayo   •   December 25, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – More than a hundred persons deprived of liberty (PDL) walked free from prison on Tuesday (December 24) just in time for the holidays.

A total of 57 inmates who returned to jail and had their Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) privileges reviewed can now reunite with their respective families.

Meanwhile, 59 PDLs from inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) were finally granted parole — the best gift they were able to receive this holiday.

“Based po doon sa aming strict evaluation ng kanilang mga karpeta, so nakita namin na entitled sila doon sa GCTA, (Based on our strict evaluation of their records, we assessed that they really are entitled to the GCTA),” explained BuCor OIC for Documents, SJO3 Albert Manalo.

“We found out na talagang na-serve na nila ang  (We found out that they already have served their) conviction, so we do not have any legal basis for their continued stay,” he added.

According to the BuCor, there are still more than a thousand GCTA returnees whose cases they need to asses.

These returnees surrendered themselves following a call from President Rodrigo Duterte during the height of the controversy when alleged heinous crime criminals also benefitted from the GCTA.

 “It has started already and it will continue as there are records that are finished and evaluated. Tuluy-tuloy ang pagpapa-release, (Continuous release will proceed),”assured BuCor PIO Chief Gabriel Chaclag.

“Pwede nating sabihing by batch, but as soon as may naipon, (We can do it by batch. As soon as their cases are reviewed, release will follow). Kasi ang direction ni Director General Bantag ay bilisan (Director General Bantag’s direction is to expedite the process) in compliance with the directive of our beloved president,” Chaclag added.

Meanwhile, BuCor calls on qualified jobseekers to consider joining the agency as they are in need of more than a thousand correction officers such as nurses, teachers, doctors, lawyers among others.

Interested applicants may visit the BuCor office for information

Sotto assures timely passage of 2020 budget bill

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III has assured that the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 will be passed on time.

Sotto said the Senate is on track in its calendar for the approval of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as it resumed plenary deliberations Tuesday following its transmission by the House of Representatives.

“It was submitted on time. We are right on track of our timetable without sacrificing important issues being raised in the different departments,” Sotto said.

He also noted that senators have been given plenty of time to bring up and clarify questionable or ambiguous provisions in the budget bill.

Sotto said plenary discussions on the budget bill, including the period of interpellation, individual and committee amendments are expected to be completed by the last week of November.

The budget bill is also seen to be approved on second and third reading by next week to be followed by the convening of the bicameral conference committee by the first week of December.

“The bicameral debates will be unpredictable. We expect healthy debates among members of the bicameral panel as they thresh out and reconcile the differences in our respective versions of the measure. We hope they will remain level-headed and open-minded during the discussions,” Sotto said.

Congress is eyeing to have the proposed 2020 budget enacted and signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte before it goes on a break for the holidays on December 20.

Drilon hits 30th SEA Games’ P50M-worth ‘kaldero’

Marje Pelayo   •   November 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Days before the much-awaited Philippine hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games, Senator Franklin Drilon sparked controversy into what he claims as ‘extravagant’ cauldron designed for the regional meet.

During the Senate’s deliberation of the budget of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) on Monday (November 18), the Senate Minority Leader hit the agency for spending too much for the metal structure.

“Masyadong extravagant ang mahiwaga, pinakamalaki at pinakamahal na kaldero sa buong mundo sa kasaysayan ng ating bansa – P55 million para sa kaldero (It’s too extravagant – the mysterious, largest and the costliest cauldron in the world and in the history of our country – P55 million for a cauldron),” Drilon said.

Overall, the government has P16.5 billion budget for the Philippines’ hosting of the 30th SEA Games.

But Senate Committee on Finance Chair Senator Sonny Angara defended why the cauldron costs that much.

 “The kaldero (cauldron) is made of steel which accounts for its high cost,” Angara argued.

BCDA President and CEO Vince Dizon added that the use of the cauldron is not only for this year’s Asian Games but for other future purposes.

“I’m talking about world-class sports facilities not only to be used for games such as the Southeast Asian Games but also can be used to serve as the training hub of our athletes,” Dizon explained.

Drilon, however, was dissatisfied with Dizon’s argument.

He said he is determined to file a resolution to investigate the spending in relation to the SEA Games immediately after the regional event is over.

Drilon also called on the Commission on Audit (COA) to launch its own special audit on the expenditures of the SEA Games. – MNP (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

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