Memorandum of release triggers process of prisoner's release
MANILA (UPDATE) - Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon on Monday denied signing the release order for rapist-killer Antonio Sanchez, as he claimed he contested giving freedom to the high-profile convict.
Faeldon has been under fire after news surfaced that his agency approved the release of Sanchez based on good conduct while in prison.
Sanchez was supposed to be released last August after earning enough “good conduct time allowance” (GCTA). This, however, did not push through following public outrage.
Faeldon admitted he received last July 20 a memorandum recommending Sanchez’s release. He said he has not yet signed any release order for the convicted rapist and killer.
“I signed a memorandum order that is the signal to process all the papers, but that is after I continuously consulted with the lawyer, ‘Why are we signing this?’” Faeldon told a joint hearing of the Senate justice and Blue Ribbon committees.
“I stopped the process of the release of Sanchez because I believe he is not entitled.”
Faeldon said even though he objected to Sanchez’s release, his hands were tied because based on the reading of the implementing rules and regulations of the Republic Act 10592, the former Calauan, Laguna mayor was qualified for GCTA.
The memorandum of release will trigger the process for the freedom of the prisoner, according to Faeldon when he was later questioned by Sen. Francis Pangilinan.
"Ito (memorandum of release) ang tinatanggap ng superintendent at siya ang pipirma nung release order, tama po ba yun?" Pangilinan asked, which Faeldon answered in the affirmative.
(The memorandum of release will be received by the superintendent and they will sign the release order, is that right?)
"Meron bang memo of release sa ilalim ng inyong panunungkulan na hindi pinirmahan o ibinalik sa inyo ng superintendent?" Pangilinan said.
(Was there a memorandum of release under your service that the superintendent did not sign or returned to you?)
"No, your honor," Faeldon answered.
"So ibig sabihin kayo po talaga ang may kapangyarihan at 'yung memorandum of release ay 'yun ang susi at ang release order ay susunod na lamang sa memorandum of release," Pangilinan said.
(Which means you have the power and the memorandum of release is the key, while the release order only follows the memorandum or release.)
"Yes, sir, that will trigger the processing of the release until the superintendent issues the final release order," Faeldon said.
News of the possible release of Sanchez, who was convicted for the rape-slay of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta in 1995 and the torture-killing of companion Allan Gomez, caused widespread outrage.
Sanchez’s now-canceled release, and the decision to free convicted several drug convicts, prompted speculation that corruption was involved in the processing of GCTAs.
In the Senate hearing, minority Sen. Risa Hontiveros said several prisoner insiders have claimed that there is a GCTA for sale scheme in the New Bilibid Prison.
Faeldon said the bureau did not change the way the law was implemented since the release of its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) in 2014. He explained that under the law’s IRR, no convict is excluded in the granting of GCTA.
“That’s why in their computation… all convicted of any crime when they behave well in jail, they were granted GCTA,” Faeldon said.
He added that not a single person deprived of liberty had been denied GCTA benefits.
Faeldon said that based on the law’s IRR, a prisoner’s GCTA can only be suspended during the month that an infraction was committed.
“In the succeeding month that they behaved well, the granting of GCTA resumes regardless of the gravity of these offenses,” he said.
Faeldon cited this provision in the law’s IRR as critics say Sanchez’s infractions while in jail, on top of his being convicted of heinous crimes, already disqualify him from benefiting from the GCTA law.
In 2010, P1.5 million worth of shabu was found in Sanchez’s cell.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the BuCor’s interpretation of the law “seems to be the prevailing rule before public outrage happened in the case of Mayor Sanchez.”
Guevarra said the confusion arose because in the law, the disqualification of “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes” pertains solely to the grant of time credit for preventive imprisonment, not for the granting of GCTA.
RA 10592’s Section 3, which revises the Revised Penal Code’s Article 97, merely increases the GCTA.
Guevarra said had there been a “standalone provision” on the disqualification of recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes in the law, “there probably would be no confusion.”
He said upon the DOJ’s review of the law, it concluded that the proper interpretation of that law would be to exclude those convicted of heinous crimes from benefiting from GCTA.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the justice and Blue Ribbon committees, castigated Faeldon for allowing these developments in the Sanchez case and for approving the release of some drug convicts.
“The buck stops with you,” Gordon told Faeldon.
“Ang laki ng tiwala sa iyo ng Pangulong [Rodrigo] Duterte, hindi ba tumalikod ka sa tiwala sa iyo ni president na papalayain mo ang mga drug pushers na ito?”
(President Duterte trusts you so much. Did you not betray his trust by allowing the release of these drug pushers?)
Faeldon responded: “I would have appreciated if I have the discretion to not follow the rules.”
RA 10592 was passed in 2013 under then President Benigno Aquino III with the goal of decongesting prisons and giving a second chance to reformed convicts.
The Supreme Court ruled in June that this law should be applied to prison sentences given even prior to its passage.
A total of 1,914 prisoners convicted of heinous crimes have been granted early release since 2014 under the GCTA law, BuCor data showed. Under the Revised Penal Code, any release order granted cannot be revoked.
More than two decades since he was convicted, Sanchez still maintains innocence, saying he was a victim of a frame-up by his political enemies.
The Board of Pardons and Parole in December 2018 dismissed Sanchez’s petition for executive clemency. It upheld the dismissal of Sanchez’s appeal in February.