FORMER Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez is not qualified to be granted his freedom based on good conduct because he committed "heinous" crimes, Malacañang said on Friday, August 23.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement, after saying earlier that the Palace has no choice but to implement Republic Act (RA) 10592, a 2013 law that raises good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for inmates.
GCTA, earned as a reward for a prisoner who shows good behavior, is deducted from the jail term he was meted.
Panelo, however, noted upon review of RA 10592 that inmates who are "recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes" are excluded from the benefit of its coverage.
"The mandate of the Executive Branch of the Government is to ensure the faithful execution of all laws. The Executive Branch cannot oppose any of them nor can it arbitrarily choose a provision of law which it will execute or not," Panelo, who served as Sanchez's lawyer, said in a statement.
"This is the letter and the spirit of the law. Thus, the inevitable conclusion is that all those convicted of a heinous crime, including Mr. Antonio Sanchez, would be ineligible and disqualified from availing the benefits of the GCTA," he added.
Sanchez was convicted on March 11, 1995 and sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years imprisonment for each term for the 1993 rape and murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of her companion Allan Gomez.
The Department of Justice announced Wednesday, August 21, that Sanchez is one of the 11,000 inmates who might walk away from prison because of RA 10592.
The announcement earned public ire, prompting the conduct of review for prisoners convicted of heinous crime like the former Calauan mayor.
Panelo said the Palace was expecting a "careful and cautious" assessment of the law.
He stressed that while the executive branch has no discretion in the implementation of the GCTA, the law still allows for the "proper" evaluation of inmates to ensure their proper coverage.
"The sentiments of the people are understandable vis-à-vis the law passed by Congress during the previous administration and its recent interpretation by the Supreme Court. As we have said, our task is to merely execute what the laws as they stand," Panelo said.
"We therefore subscribe to the opinion of the Secretary of Justice on the matter. Further, we support his Department’s directive to the Bureau of Corrections to carefully and cautiously review the GCTA of persons who have been found guilty by the courts of having committed high profile, heinous crimes or crimes so grave that show extreme moral depravity," he added.
Panelo likewise said the Palace welcomes the intention of some lawmakers to conduct hearings in aid of legislation with respect to the current law on the GCTA.
"We assure that responsible officials will attend the same and assist them as they endeavor to craft better penal laws that are not only fair but are also morally sound," he said. (SunStar Philippines)