Guevarra: ‘Balance’ needed in issue of freed convicts
MANILA, Philippines — With calls to send heinous crime convicts back to prison, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra underscored the need to “strike a balance” as the move to do so would involve constitutional rights to liberty and due process.
In a joint Senate hearing on the implementation of Republic Act No. 10592, which expanded the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) given to prisoners under the Revised Penal Code, Guevarra said that the issue of sending already released inmates should be a matter taken up by the Supreme Court.
Guevarra explained that under RA 10592 GCTAs that had already granted to inmates could no longer be revoked.
“That is the wording of the law,” he said. “So for some people, this may be interpreted as these PDLs [persons deprived of liberty] having acquired the invested right already.”
“If it happens to be a case of mistaken interpretation of the law, who will have to be blamed for that? If it was an action on the part of the BuCor [Bureau of Corrections] upon the interpretation that regardless of the offense committed these people are entitled to good conduct time allowances, then some people would say that they acted in good faith,” he added.
Pointing out that the rights of both victims’ and convicts’ families were involved, he said: “We are trying to strike a balance in the rights of all people affected.”
“Even if the Department of Justice renders an opinion on this matter, this opinion is not binding on anyone unless it is an opinion or a ruling that comes straight from the highest court in the land,” he added.
But Senate President Vicente Sotto III said actions should immediately be taken instead of waiting for a Supreme Court decision.
“Perhaps that would be the best move but as of now, it [RA 10592] is subject for interpretation… Eh kung iligal yung pagkaka-release? We need not wait for the Supreme Court decision on the matter and we just cannot be satisfied with just blaming these people to blame,” he said.
“Kailangan po meron tayong gawin ditong aksyon kaagad,” he further added.
Earlier, Malacañang said released heinous crime criminals should be brought back to prison.
All these developments came in the wake of public outrage over reports that convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, might be released early for good conduct.
Sanchez was sentenced to seven 40-year prison terms for the rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of Allan Gomez — both students at the University of the Philippines – Los Baños — in 1993.
After the news about Sanchez came out, Sen. Panfilo Lacson revealed that at least eight foreign drug lords had been released under the GCTA law.
Lacson later on also bared that three men convicted for the rape and murder of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in Cebu had also been freed under the same law.
The release of the three convicts was confirmed by BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon in the same hearing on Monday.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.