By Hannah Torregoza
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Monday said former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez could still go to the Supreme Court if the Department of Justice (DOJ) changes its interpretation of the law on Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA). and decides he is not eligible for early prison release.
Drilon, who was the justice secretary that prosecuted Sanchez and six others for the rape and murder of two University of the Philippines (UP) students in 1993, said no one can stop Sanchez from questioning the justice department if he believes there was an error in the implementation of the law or Republic Act No. 10592.
“Pwede po iyan dahilan sa ang kanilang dating interpretasyon ay talagang sinabi nila na baka ma-release na si Sanchez dahil doon sa good conduct time allowance. Pwede siyang tumakbo sa SC. Kung inyong maalaala, ang unang interpretasyon kasama si Mayor Sanchez. Sa bagong interpretasyon, hindi na kasama (That can happen precisely because in their first interpretation, they said that Sanchez might be released because of the GCTA. He can run to the SC. If you remember, the first interpretation is Mayor Sanchez is included. In the latest interpretation, he is no longer qualified),” Drilon said in an interview over radio station DZMM.
“Kaya hindi mo mapigil si Sanchez na tumakbo sa SC at sabihin na hindi sang-ayon sa batas o ang tinatawag nating abuse of discretion o may pagkakamali sa pag-implement ng batas, kaya ang husgado ang dapat na magdesisyon kung talagang kasama siya o hindi (That’s why you cannot stop Sanchez from running to the SC and say that it is against the law, or if there was abuse of discretion or there was something wrong with the law’s implementation, that’s why it is up to the judges to decide whether or not he should be included or not),” the minority leader said.
Drilon had earlier said Sanchez was not qualified for good conduct credits due to the fact he smuggled shabu while inside his detention cell, and stashed it inside a Virgin Mary statue while serving time for the murders of Alan Gomez and Eileen Sarmenta.
According to Drilon, he fully supported the DOJ’s plan to inform the SC that it would suspend the implementation of the GCTA until the issues on Sanchez and the six other co-accused in the crime have been resolved.
But he said he hoped the DOJ would provide information on how many of prisoners have been freed due to good conduct.
“Ako’y sang-ayon diyan at sinusuportahan. Ngunit ang tanong natin, ilan na ba ang napalaya dahil dito? Kung ating maalaala, ang sabi ay mahigit 11,000 ang eligible na makalaya under the GCTA (I agree to that and I support that plan. But my question is, how many prisoners have been freed under this law? If we remember, they said more than 11,000 are eligible to be released under the GCTA),” he pointed out.
“Mayroon na bang napalaya? Kasama ba rito yung anim na bodyguards ni Sanchez? Kung magbago sila ng interpretasyon at hindi kasama ang convicted of heinous crimes, ano ang gagawin natin sa mga guilty of heinous crimes pero dahil sa kanilang interpretasyon noon ay nakalaya na (Were there any prisoners released before? Do they include the six bodyguards of Sanchez? If they changed interpretation and say those convicted of heinous crimes are not included, what will they do to those guilty of heinous crimes but have been released?),” Drilon pointed out.
At the same time, Drilon said he will ask his colleague, Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, to immediately set a public hearing, so lawmakers can study the issues surrounding the GCTA law.
“Hilingin ko kay Sen. Gordon kung pwedeng ma-set yung hearing kaagad. Kailangang ipaliwanang kung ano nangyari. Paano nagkaroon ng GCTA at paano nasabi na 49 years nang na-serve ni Sanchez yung kaniyang term (I will ask Sen. Gordon if he can set a hearing immediately. There must be an explanation to what was happening. How did the GCTA come about, and how can they say that Sanchez has already served his term of 49 years),” he pointed out.
“Kasi ang dating interpretation ay yung dating convicted of heinous crime ay kasama sa GCTA kaya nga sinabi nila na 49 years nang na-serve ni Sanchez (Because in their previous interpretation, they said that those convicted of heinous crimes are included in the GCTA, and that is why they said Sanchez has already served his 49 years of prison term),” Drilon noted.