Senators back justice dep't on suspending GCTA processing

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 26 2019 03:21 PM | Updated as of Aug 26 2019 05:03 PM

MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Franklin Drilon on Monday said they agree with the Department of Justice’s move to inform the Supreme Court (SC) of its plan to suspend the processing of applications for good conduct time allowance (GCTA) of convicts. 

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra over the weekend said the department will inform the SC of the need to suspend the processing of “good conduct time allowance” for convicts, provided under Republic Act 10592, until the Bureau of Corrections finishes its review of the guidelines on its implementation.

"We are reviewing the existing guidelines for GCTA and the BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) will henceforth base its actions on any new guidelines that will come out," Guevarra said in a statement on Saturday. 

In a statement, Lacson said “the DOJ deserves our appreciation for its resolute action. A thorough review of the computation and application of GCTA is indeed a welcome move.”

Lacson added that Sanchez is a “representation of everything that is bad and wrong with our penitentiary system.”

“His luxurious, high-living standard while serving time easily reminds us of the ‘kubol’ bungalows of the drug lord convicts which authorities said they already dismantled. It appears that nothing has changed. The different money-making rackets remain and probably have gone worse,” he said.

Senate President Sotto, for his part, said the suspension is the right action, adding he has filed a resolution seeking to review the law's implementation and possibly amend it.

Drilon, the chamber’s minority leader, also agrees with the suspension. But he said the government must determine what to do with convicts already released based on increased good conduct time allowance (GCTA). 

Guevarra announced the plan after outrage grew over his earlier statement that convicted rapist and killer Antonio Sanchez would benefit from a reduced prison term and walk free soon.

He has since changed his tune and said Sanchez is not qualified for GCTA since he was convicted of heinous crimes.

RA 10592 was passed in 2013 under then President Benigno Aquino III with the goal of decongesting prisons. The SC ruled in June that it should be applied to prison sentences given even prior to the law’s passage.

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 raped.

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.