Lawmaker wants vetting, transparency in applying law granting convicts early release

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 03 2019 12:31 PM

MANILA - The vetting process of prisoners applying for early release under the law's good conduct time allowance (GCTA) needs to be amended as nearly 2,000 heinous crime convicts have benefited from the system, a lawmaker said on Tuesday.

"Because if they just followed the law it would be clear there would be no controversy. No release of heinous crime offenders so there will be no problem," Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez told ANC's Headstart. 

Rodriguez was one of the authors of the GCTA law. 

In a Senate hearing on the GCTA law on Monday, Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon confirmed the release of 3 men convicted for the 1997 murder of Chiong sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline in Cebu.

The implementation of Republic Act 10592, which in 2013 expanded the computation of the GCTA to include detention time, has been under intense scrutiny lately after the justice department said convicted rapist-killer Antonio Sanchez may be released from imprisonment because of supposed good behavior.

“What was clearly abused was discretion of the Bureau of Corrections. Mr. Faeldon clearly violated discretion and violated exactly the provisions of the law. There was no transparency, that brings us to the issue of corruption,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said that after what happened at the BuCor, the vetting process should go all the way to the Office of the President.
 
"If the Office of the President grants pardon, which may also be conditional, this (GCTA) is a release. You're a free man. This is even a bigger benefit than pardon. Pardon can have a conditional one, good if its absolute. Parole may condition. But this one, you are considered to have served your sentence fully. That is what we have," he said.

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.

"In the spirit of the law, in the intent of the law there will be no good conduct time allowance to all of those charged with heinous crimes," Rodriguez said.

He added that for transparency, the bureau should have published the names of prisoners already released and even those applying for early release under the GCTA.

"We need, therefore, a transparency by announcing the applicants and then there will be a review of the Secretary of Justice," Rodriguez said.

Names of applicants' should be published and uploaded in the internet. The bureau also has to write to the victims' families and allow them the time to protest or to give their comment.

"Our only purpose is to make sure nothing is left unturned. We should go to these two kinds of vetting first from the Secretary of Justice then Office of the President," he said.