No exclusion for heinous crimes: Faeldon says all convicts benefit from GCTA law

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 02 2019 11:41 AM | Updated as of Sep 02 2019 11:42 AM

MANILA - Embattled Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon on Monday defended the implementation of a law that allows the early release of prisoners, including those convicted of heinous crimes. 

The implementation of the Republic Act 10592 which increases the “good conduct time allowance” of prisoners has been under intense scrutiny lately after the justice department announced that convicted rapist-killer Antonio Sanchez might be released from imprisonment because of supposed good behavior.

Facing the Senate justice and Blue Ribbon committees, Faeldon said the bureau has never changed 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.

“You will notice that not a single PDL (persons deprived of liberty) has not been denied in whole of GCTA.”

Faeldon added 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.

“Even grave offenses like drugs confiscated inside their cells, they are only penalized for one month,” Faeldon said. “This has been their application [of the law] since 2014 up to this day.”

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.

The law’s section 3, which revises the Revised Penal Code’s Article 97, merely increased 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.

Republic Act 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.

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, outraged the public and various government officials.

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.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson had earlier said several convicted drug lords were also released due to supposed good behavior.

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.