MANILA (UPDATE) — The Office of the Ombudsman has asked Sen. Leila de Lima and former interior secretary Mar Roxas to clarify the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) they drafted for the early release of prisoners based on good conduct credits.
The good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law, under which some 2,000 heinous crime convicts have been released since it was enacted in 2013, has spawned inquiries by the Ombudsman and the Senate following reports that it might benefit Antonio Sanchez, a former mayor imprisoned for a highly followed rape-murder case in the 1990s.
The 2013 law that expanded the computation of GCTA to detention time exempts recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes, Ombudsman Samuel Martires noted in a Sept. 6 letter to Roxas and De Lima, a former justice secretary.
However, the IRR for the law only disqualifies recidivists, those who have been "convicted previously twice or more... of any crime," and those who failed to surrender before a court after being summoned, said Martires.
He requested De Lima and Roxas to submit within 3 days a written explanation on "why the foregoing provision in the IRR does not contain the same disqualifications as enumerated in the last paragraph of Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code."
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sept. 4 ordered heinous crime convicts freed on good conduct credits to surrender to authorities within 15 days and fired Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon.
Faeldon earlier told lawmakers he recommended freedom for Sanchez but stopped the latter's release "because I believe he is not entitled" to GCTA benefits.
Sanchez was sentenced to 7 reclusion perpetua terms (40 years each term) for the 1993 rape-slay of college student Eileen Sarmenta and killing of her companion Allan Gomez.
In a dispatch from her detention cell in Camp Crame, De Lima said the Ombudsman’s move was a “highly irregular” development.
“The letter says that the Office of the Ombudsman has ‘opened a fact-finding investigation on alleged irregularities in the implementation of’ the GCTA Law. Am I to be treated here as a resource person, a respondent, or a probable respondent?” she said.
“Is this a setup for me and Sec. Mar (Roxas) into taking the fall for the Sanchez-Faeldon scandal with which we have nothing to do?”
Under Faeldon’s term, four Chinese drug lords and three convicts in the 1997 rape-slay of the Chiong sisters were among those freed. Two of the three in the latter case surrendered on Saturday.
A Senate witness last week claimed prison officials sell GCTA credits for as much as P1.5 million, which Faeldon denied.
The Ombudsman on Monday suspended 27 BuCor officials for 6 months without pay in connection with the GCTA implementation.
-- With reports from Henry Atuelan and Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News