Longest held political prisoner can go, but SolGen not yet done | Inquirer News

Longest held political prisoner can go, but SolGen not yet done

/ 05:40 AM December 22, 2021

The family of the longest held political prisoner in the country expects him to be home for Christmas.

Juanito Itaas, behind bars for 32 years, has been ordered released by the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 for fully serving his prison sentence. He is now 57 years old.

In a ruling dated Nov. 8 but made public only on Monday, Judge Gener Gito granted the petition for habeas corpus filed by Itaas’ daughter Jarel and ordered the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to release him from New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.


Gito said Itaas was “entitled to be credited the equivalent days of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) credits earned by him.”


The Office of the Solicitor General filed a motion for reconsideration on Monday. The motion may delay Itaas’ release or block it altogether if it is granted.

Itaas has been in jail since his arrest on Aug. 27, 1989.

He was convicted of the murder of Col. James Rowe, US Army division chief of the Joint RP-US Military Advisory Group, on April 21, 1989, and sentenced to reclusion perpetua or 40 years, and an additional term of from 10 years to 17 years and 4 months for the frustrated murder of Rowe’s driver, Joaquin Binuya.

Itaas had claimed being wrongfully accused and unjustly convicted of Rowe’s murder.

‘Clear, cogent, compelling’

In his 28-page decision, Judge Gito declared invalid Section 2, Rule IV of the amended implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the GCTA law, or Republic Act No. 10592, which excluded convicts of heinous crimes including murder from benefiting from the new system.

The GCTA system allows shorter sentences for prisoners for good behavior.


Ted Te of the Free Legal Assistance Group, counsel for Jarel Itaas, said Judge Gito’s decision was “clear, cogent and compelling.”

“His decision to grant Mr. Itaas the benefit of the GCTA is founded on both the facts and the law, and his ruling declaring as invalid the IRR provisions that made it more difficult for detainees to benefit from the GCTA is consistent with the Constitution and the law,” Te said, adding:

“We hope that Mr. Itaas will be able to join his family for Christmas.”

The Inquirer tried to reach Assistant Secretary Gabriel Chaclag, BuCor spokesperson, for information on Itaas’ status and comment on the court’s decision, but he had yet to respond at press time.

‘Ultra vires’

According to Judge Gito, Section 2, Rule IV of the 2019 Amended IRR is “ultra vires,” or “exceeds the law that it seeks to implement.”

It expands the exceptions from the benefits provided by RA 10592, specifically from the grant of GCTA, he said.

The IRR of the GCTA law was amended in response to public outrage at the planned release in August 2019 of convicted murderer-rapist Antonio Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, as a beneficiary of the system.

Public clamor foiled Sanchez’s release and moved the Senate to look into the questionable GCTA system in Bilibid. President Duterte also ordered the thousands of convicts of heinous crimes released under GCTA to surrender to the BuCor.

Sanchez and a number of other convicts of heinous crimes filed a petition challenging the constitutionality of the amended IRR of RA 10592, but it was eventually thrown out by the Supreme Court for procedural lapses.

Sanchez died on March 27 in prison.

Hit squad

Itaas was accused of being a member of the New People’s Army’s Sparrow Unit, the communist group’s hit squad.

He had denied being a hitman and said he was a farm worker when arrested. He said he was a fall guy and that he was tortured into admitting to killing Rowe.

In August 2000, the Supreme Court affirmed Itaas’ murder conviction, but downgraded the other charge of attempted murder and sentenced him to a shorter prison term of from six years to nine years and six months.

Four months later, Itaas was counted among the insurgents granted amnesty under Proclamation No. 347 series of 1994 of then President Fidel V. Ramos.

The court ruled that the attempted murder charge against Itaas was covered by the amnesty, but not the murder charge.

39 years, 6 months

According to the Muntinlupa RTC, Itaas has to serve 39 years and six months for his murder conviction.

He could have been freed sooner, as the court computed the time he served, including GCTA credits, to be 61 years and 7 months—or 20 years longer than the maximum 40-year prison sentence.

“Considering that he has already served 32 years, one month and 12 days, and applying GCTAs he has already earned, which is 10,758 days or 29 years, five months and 23 days, Mr. Itaas is deemed to have already served his sentence for his two convictions,” the court said.

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Itaas got married in the course of his imprisonment. He and his wife, Glenda, have a son and two daughters, all of whom were conceived during conjugal visits at the penitentiary.

TAGS: Juanito Itaas, Prisoner

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