Senator Sonny Angara called for the immediate review of Republic Act 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law, with the end in view of amending it in order to avoid a miscarriage of justice just like what almost happened with former Calauan, Mayor Antonio Sanchez.
For someone who has been convicted of rape and murder and still continued to commit crimes while in prison, Angara noted that Sanchez should not have been considered for any reduction in his sentence.
Angara said there was something wrong with the situation where an individual under preventive imprisonment or still undergoing trial could be excluded from the GCTA but for convicted criminals, including those who committed heinous crimes like Sanchez, they are treated differently.
“It is strange that a person who is entitled to presumption of innocence (not yet convicted) will be given good conduct allowances, exempting those who are recidivist, meaning they are repeat offenders. But in the case of a convict, someone who’s already been convicted by final judgment, they are allowed to avail of this good conduct allowances,” Angara said.
“Mas guilty nga sila but they are given more allowance under the law. So there is a philosophical inconsistency here,” Angara added.
Angara was deeply affected by the reports about the impending release of Sanchez from prison, supposedly as a result of the provisions of RA 10592 because when he was still a congressman, he filed the bill that covered Section 1 of the law.
That particular section dealt only with GCTA for persons under preventive imprisonment, which excluded “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes” from its coverage.
When the law was passed in 2013, the Senate’s version was adopted by the House of Representatives, which expanded the scope beyond persons under preventive imprisonment.
Angara also cited a joint DOJ-DILG Uniform Manual on Time Allowances and Service of Sentence, which states that if a prisoner violates any of the listed 49 violations within a month, he/she shall not be entitled for the grant of GCTA for the said month only.
“Meaning, he would only forfeit his allowances for that month. If we are to be overly-technical, in the case of Sanchez, if he did that terrible violation of placing drugs inside the statue of the Virgin Mary, he would only forfeit (his GCTA) for that said month. For me that is totally absurd. That is interpreting the law totally against the spirit of the Constitution, totally against the spirit of our philosophy on penal laws,” Angara said.
“If we interpret these rules technically, he could commit all kinds of crimes, he could even kill somebody in prison and would only lose his good conduct allowances for the month. So I think, we should have some qualifiers if not in the law, then perhaps in the implementing rules,” Angara added.
Angara said that for convicted criminals like Sanchez, it would make more sense for the law to wipe the slate clean as far as their GCTAs are concerned.
“That makes more sense but perhaps that should be enshrined to prevent any absurd interpretation. That is the purpose of laws; that is the purpose of rules; that is the purpose of institutions,” Angara said.
“As a great man once said: the life of the law is experience, it’s not logic. So experience shows that a recidivist will tend to commit repeat violations. So, someone who has been convicted of seven life sentences certainly does not deserve to lose his good conduct allowances just for one month. He deserves to lose it; he deserves to start from zero or even from negative,” Angara added.