THERE is an ongoing hullabaloo on the impending release of some 11,000 convicted prisoners serving life sentences in our national penitentiaries who may possibly benefit from Republic Act 10592, or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law. This includes convicted rapist and murderer, former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez, and the seven convicted rapists-murderers responsible for the death of the Chiong sisters, Jacqueline and Marijoy, in 1997.
After the news about Sanchez being one of those who can benefit from the law, protests, especially in the social media, have snowballed. Students and professors from the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños where Sanchez’s victims, Eillen Sarmenta and her boyfriend Allan Gomez, were studying when they were murdered were first to react. Sanchez was also convicted of another murder due to the death of a security aide of his political opponent. Overall, he is serving more than 300 years of life imprisonment.
Some Cebuanos also aired the same sentiments when they heard about the news that the Chiong sisters’ convicted rapists and murderers headed by Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga and Jusman Aznar are also qualified to be released under the law. Larrañaga, who holds a Filipino-Spanish citizenship, is serving his sentence in the Madrid Central Penitentiary in Spain under the Treaty of Sentenced Persons signed between the Philippine-Spanish governments.
What is RA 10592?
The law was approved on May 29, 2013 by then president Benigno Aquino III. It amended several provisions of the Revised Penal Code, including Article 97, which GCTA allotted to persons deprived of liberty (PDL) to the following: 1) In the first two years of imprisonment, the deduction has been increased from five days to each month of good behavior to 20 days; 2) On the third to fifth year inclusive of his imprisonment, the deduction has been increased from eight to 23 days for each month of good behavior during detention; 3) The following year to the 10th year inclusive of imprisonment, the deduction increases from 10 to 25 days for each month of good behavior; 4) On the 11th month and successive from 15 days to 30 days for each month of good behavior; 5) The law also included another deduction of 15 days for each month of study teaching and mentoring services rendered.
In 2014, then Justice secretary Leila de Lima and Interior secretary Mar Roxas came up with implementing rules and regulations (IRR), stating that the law should have prospective application. This means that the law on the re-computation of the GCTA should apply to PDLs imprisoned from the time that law was enacted.
However, several lawyers questioned before the Supreme Court (SC) the constitutionality of the IRR. The petitioners included lawyers representing convicted prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison, the Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag) and former senator Rene Saguisag. They claimed the law discriminates without any reasonable basis against those who would have benefited from the retroactive application of the law. The SC ruled in favor of the petitioners, saying PDLs before the law was passed should benefit from RA 10592.
Maybe pressured by public opinion, President Rodrigo Duterte already announced that he would not approve Sanchez’s release, citing the convict’s violations inside the jail. Sanchez, according to reports, lives a very comfortable life inside the bilibid with amenities like a big flat TV screen and an airconditioned room. Authorities also confiscated kilos of shabu hidden inside an image of the Virgin Mary inside his cell.
For me, it is not a good conduct when a prisoner is still doing illegal activities and shenanigans inside the jail. For a prisoner to be considered showing good conduct, he/she must show remorse of the crime he/she committed and a reformed man when he/she gets out from jail so he can go back to the mainstream of society. It is not only the computation of the sentence that a prisoner can avail himself of the law, but should also include his conduct and behavior while serving sentence. Kining mapriso ang tawo, duha ray kapaingnan. Either magbag-o kay mitagam o mosamot ang kaboang kay daghan nakat-unan nga mga kaboang sulod sa prisohan.