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Sanchez case should not derail release of deserving inmates – Hataman

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MANILA, Philippines — House members continue to weigh in on the possible release of convicted rapist-murderer and former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, with one saying that Sanchez’s case should not derail the implementation of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for thousands of qualified prisoners.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Sunday suspended the processing of the early release for good conduct of thousands of prisoners amid public uproar on the possible release of Sanchez, who was convicted for the 1993 rape-slay of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta, and murder of her companion, Allan Gomez, in Laguna.

House Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman said the non-implementation of the GCTA for deserving inmates constitutes “greater injustice.”

“Madami nang matatanda, mahihina at sakiting mga inmates na bayad na sa mga kasalanan nila sa lipunan. Marami dito, naka-wheelchair na palabas ng kulungan, meron nasa stretcher na. Silang mga matatanda, may sakit at mabait na preso, let them be home by Christmas,” Hataman said in a statement on Monday.

“Pwedeng i-hold muna ang approval, pero dapat tuloy-tuloy ang processing. Magandang batas naman ito. Call Sanchez a monster, but the law, the GCTA, hindi dapat mag-suffer. We can review the law, but I believe we should not repeal it,” he added.

The Basilan legislator also said it makes sense to push through with the program, as the Bureau of Jail Management Penology under the Department of Interior and Local Government has a proposed budget of P18.6 billion for next year. With an inmate population of 182,556 projected for 2020, the annual per prisoner burden to taxpayers is P101,886, he said.

Hataman said the same goes for the Bureau of Corrections under the Department of Justice, which has a proposed 2020 budget of P4.3 billion and a forecast of the inmate population for 2020 at 47,010. The annual per prisoner burden to taxpayers is P91,406.

Republic Act No. 10592, enacted during the term of former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, provides guidelines for the GCTA, or the time allowance an inmate can deduct from his total sentence.

But Section 1 of the said law, a copy of which was uploaded on The Official Gazette, says “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage of this Act.”

Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin, for her part, backed President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement against Sanchez’s release. She also echoed calls for a review of RA 10592.

“Moreover, it will set a bad precedent and risk releasing undeserving criminals of heinous crimes like Sanchez. Our justice system is not infallible,” Garin said in a separate statement.

“Naniniwala po akong may mga deserving makalaya, at mayroong mga hindi dapat palayain. And Sanchez is one good example of a person who is unworthy of freedom,” she added.

In a unanimous decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta on June 25, the Supreme Court allowed the retroactive application of the grant of GCTA, meaning the law could apply even to those who were convicted before it was passed in 2013.

Following this, Guevarra said the Bureau of Corrections recomputed all the prisoners’ GCTA beginning with those who were sentenced in 1993, which included Sanchez.