Amendments to good conduct time allowance law eyed

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 26 2019 12:23 PM | Updated as of Aug 26 2019 02:05 PM

MANILA - Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday said he will file a bill to seek amendments to a law which reduces a convict’s prison term due to good behavior.

Zubiri sought the amendments after outrage grew over the justice department’s earlier announcement that convicted rapist and killer Antonio Sanchez would benefit from such a law.

The senator said he would seek to exempt convicts of heinous crimes from the reduced prison term benefits under Republic Act 10592.

“We intend to go back to work tomorrow armed with possible amendments to that good conduct law by making it specific that convicts of heinous crimes, especially those such as murder, drug trafficking, kidnap for ransom and other highly… cannot avail of the program,” Zubiri said in a statement.

“[These] individuals are too dangerous to release back [into] the streets and imagine the families and individuals who testified against them will be in extreme danger.”

The senator believes it is easy to feign “good conduct” while in prison, noting that in the United States, convicts released on good behavior had become repeat offenders.

“All a dangerous criminal has to do is to pretend to be very nice for a decade and then apply for the program and he is released from his predicament only to get back at those who filed and testified against him. Everyone now will be afraid to testify and go against criminals of heinous crimes,” Zubiri said.

“Let's clearly define that there will be no commutation of life sentences for certain crimes, no exemptions. That way there should be no controversy such as this one of Mayor Sanchez happening again.”

CAN SANCHEZ RUN TO SC?

Senate Minority Franklin Drilon, the justice secretary at the time of the pendency of Sanchez’s case, said Sanchez may run to the Supreme Court to reverse the government’s sudden turnaround on his release.

“Hindi mo mapigil si Sanchez na tumakbo sa SC at sabihin na hindi sang-ayon sa batas o ang tinatawag nating abuse of discretion o may pagkakamali sa pag-implement ng batas, kaya ang husgado ang dapat na magdesisyon kung talagang kasama siya o hindi,” Drilon told dzMM.

(You cannot stop Sanchez from running to the SC and say that there was grave abuse of discretion or mistake in the implementation of the law. Only judges can say whether he should really benefit from good conduct time allowance.)

Drilon and Senate President Vicente Sotto III are both seeking an inquiry on the implementation of the good conduct time allowance law.

Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, was sentenced in 1995 to 7 counts of reclusion perpetua (or 40 years imprisonment) over the killing of University of the Philippines Los Baños students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. Sarmenta was also found raped.

Guevarra earlier said Sanchez might be released because of the 2013 law 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.

Malacañang has 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.”

President Rodrigo Duterte also opposes Sanchez’s release, according to Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

More than two decades since he was convicted, Sanchez still maintains innocence, saying he was a victim of a frame-up.