MANILA – The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) must be careful in the computation of good conduct time allowance (GCTA) of prisoners, Sen. Nancy Binay said Friday, as outrage grows over reports that convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez would be freed because of supposed good behavior.
Binay said there is a need to fully review the procedures in granting GCTAs to prisoners, as letting undeserving convicts walk free could “amplify the horror, the pain, and the injustice,” felt by the victims and their relatives.
“A simple math mistake can directly perpetuate wholesale injustice,” Binay said in a statement. “An error can be a criminal's ticket to freedom.”
“For hardened criminals, no amount of good behavior can erase the bestiality of whatever they did to their victims. Giving them clemency without material basis is an affront to the victims’ families.”
Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, was sentenced in 1995 to 7 counts of reclusion perpetua (or 40 years imprisonment) over the murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. Sarmenta was also found raped.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said Sanchez might be released because of a 2013 law, or Republic Act 10592, increasing good conduct time allowance and a Supreme Court (SC) decision applying this law retroactively.
After the news attracted public outrage, Guevarra ordered a thorough review and re-computation of GCTAs of convicts.
He has also changed tune since, saying Sanchez is not qualified for GCTA since he was convicted of heinous crimes.
Binay said the law must define what “good behavior” is and that it should have a provision to have candidates or applicants for clemency be published in newspapers or online “in order for the public and the families of victims to be informed of the convicts' status.”
"It's hard to imagine hardened criminals walk free without fully serving their life sentences just because of a clerical lapse, and because of good conduct, they can be released without the families of victims being informed," Binay said.
The senator also said convicts of certain crimes must not be eligible for clemency, and that the BuCor and other penal bureaus should “come up with a holistic evaluation procedure that is independent, fair, thorough, and impeccable.”
"We need to have clear definition of terminologies and measurable indices so that there’s legal and material basis. We also need a list of certain crimes qualified for clemency or GCTA. If the sentence is double- or triple-life, it should be automatically disqualified," she said.
Documents showed that Sanchez has served 34 years, 2 months and 26 days, including good conduct time allowances and credit for preventive imprisonment of 6 years, 3 months and 25 days.
Sanchez was received at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City on March 15, 1995. He commenced serving his sentence on Dec. 8, 1999.
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Meanwhile, Sen. Leila de Lima said Guevarra’s earlier announcement was meant to drum up public support for death penalty.
“He now says that Sanchez might not be released after all. In the first place, Sec. Guevarra did not even have to make that reckless announcement about Sanchez’s possible release, if BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) and the Board of Pardons and Parole have not yet reviewed Sanchez’s prison record,” De Lima said in a statement.
De Lima believes Guevarra’s “premature announcement” on the Sanchez case was “a trial balloon of some sort” to garner public support for death penalty, but that it was “immediately burst by an enraged public.”
“If yes, it was a costly tactic that backfired on Guevarra,” she said.
Asked to react on De Lima’s statement, Guevarra said: “She’s free to think what she wants to think.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Sanchez case might spark public support for and renew discussion on the reinstatement of death penalty.
But De Lima said death penalty is not the solution.
“The problem lies in the misapplication or warped or twisted application of the law and possible abuses in its implementation for some insidious agenda,” she said.
Malacañang also announced that Sanchez was ineligible for the GCTA since the law excludes “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes from the benefit of its coverage.”