By Ellson Quismorio
The controversial case of convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez shouldn’t derail the implementation of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for thousands of qualified inmates in the penal system.
Thus, said Deputy Speaker and Basilan lone district Rep. Mujiv Hataman even as the supposed impeding release of the former Calauan, Laguna mayor somewhat stained the GCTA rule in the public’s eyes.
“The case of Antonio Sanchez should not imperil the fate of around 10,000 prisoners who are qualified for early conditional release by their remorse, rehabilitation and good conduct. They have earned it,” Hataman said.
“Tuloy-tuloy dapat ang evaluation for GCTA program (Evaluations under the GCTA program must continue),” he reckoned, citing prisoners who are “sick, old, infirm, terminally-ill.”
Having the opposite happen in light of the Sanchez case fallout would be “the greater injustice,” said the Deputy Speaker.
“Pwedeng i-hold muna ang approval, pero dapat tuloy-tuloy ang processing. Magandang batas naman ito (You can hold the approval, but the processing should continue. This is a good rule). Call Sanchez a monster, but the law, the GCTA, hindi dapat mag-suffer (it must not suffer). We can review the law, but I believe we should not repeal it,” he added.
The former governor of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) called for calm in the middle of a stormy debate that was triggered by reports that Sanchez, convicted for the 1993 rape-slay of Eileen Sarmienta and the murder of her companion Allan Gomez, was scheduled for an early release thanks to the GCTA rule.
President Rodrigo Duterte subsequently said that he won’t allow the early release of Sanchez, who was sentenced to seven life terms in 1995.
Hataman also said that from a fiscal standpoint, it makes sense to push through with the GCTA program, as the Bureau of Jail Management Penology (BJMP) under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has a proposed budget of P18.6 billion for next year.
With a projected inmate population of 182,556 for 2020, the annual per prisoner burden to taxpayers is P101,886.
Hataman said the same goes for the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) under the Department of Justice (DOJ), which has a proposed 2020 budget of P4.3 billion and a forecasted inmate population 47,010 for that year. For this sector, the annual per prisoner burden to taxpayers is P91,406.
“Sa BuCor pa lang, kung may net reduction of 2,000 prisoners, makaka-save tayo ng P182 million sa isang taon. Sa totoo lang, mas malaki pa ang budget per prisoner kesa sa isang estudyante under,” he stressed.
(In BuCor alone, a net reduction of 2,000 prisoners will save us P182 million annually. In truth, a prisoner has a bigger budget than a student under the free college program.)
The jail problem is compounded by the 500 percent overcapacity rate of BJMP early this year.
Republic Act (RA) No. 10592, enacted during the term of former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, provides guidelines for the GCTA, or the time allowance an inmate can deduct from his total sentence.
“Madami din ay hindi naman nahatulan ng heinous crime (A lot of inmates weren’t jailed for heinous crimes), which qualifies them for the earned clemency under the GCTA. Don’t let the likes of Sanchez spoil the trip to freedom of deserving inmates,” Hataman said.