Inmates convicted of heinous crimes who were granted early freedom for their good behavior should be returned to jail, Malacañang said Friday.
“They can be rearrested and sent back,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters in a press conference in Beijing.
Panelo was referring to thousands of inmates released under Republic Act 10592, which shortens jail time for good behavior. The law excludes from coverage those who were convicted of heinous crimes and those who attempted to escape.
“Obviously, they should be brought back to prison until they serve the full term of their service,” he said.
Justice and prison officials provoked public outrage
when they initially said convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez, might be released early because of his earned Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).
The Bureau of Corrections later acknowledged that almost 2,000 former inmates jailed for heinous crimes were among 22,049 inmates released since 2013 due to the passage of the GCTA law.
Four Chinese drug lords were among the inmates released, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Thursday.
The Bureau of Immigration said the four Chinese drug lords were in its custody and awaiting deportation.
Panelo, who also serves as President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, earlier said that heinous crime convicts like Sanchez were disqualified from the law granting early release.
READ: Panelo denies role in Sanchez case
The possible release of Sanchez, convicted for the 1993 rape and murder of college student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend, Alan Gomez, has ignited a public debate on the application of the GCTA law.
Government officials initially said Sanchez was automatically eligible for GCTA law coverage but changed its tune after a public outcry.
Earlier, Senator Christopher Go said it was President Duterte himself who told Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon not to release Sanchez, saying the GCTA law should not benefit heinous crime convicts.
The Department of Justice recently suspended the processing and awarding of GCTA for 10 days, pending a review of the early release guidelines.
Guevarra and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año created a joint committee to undertake and complete the review in 10 days.
Guevarra admitted that the Palace has specifically requested that the processing of Sanchez’s case be held until factual and legal issues are resolved.
Lacson on Friday disclosed that three more foreign drug conficts have been released for good behavior.
Lacson said Chinese drug lords are being released using the GCTA, which is earned as a reward for an inmate’s good behavior and deducted from the jail term that a prisoner needs to serve.
Earlier, he revealed at least four Chinese nationals convicted for drug offenses were released by the BuCor last June. He said another Chinese drug lord was turned over to the Bureau of Immigration for deportation.
Lacson said 48 of the 1,914 inmates who availed of the benefits of the said law have been convicted for drug-related cases.
Lacson said those being held for deportation should not be deported because they could come back using another name and resume their drug trafficking operations.
A spokesperson for the BI said the four drug lords would not be deported until their cases are reviewed.
“The four Chinese convicts will stay at the BI jail and will wait for the DOJ’s order. The BI exercises its ministerial function to deport foreign nationals who completed the service of sentence in Philippine prison,” the BI official said.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Friday expressed disappointment over the release from prison of four Chinese drug lords in June.
Director General Aaron Aquino questioned the release of Chan Chit Yue, Kin San Ho, Ching Che and Wu Hing Sum.
In response to the Board of Pardons and Parole, PDEA sent a letter to comment on the possible executive clemency to Pang Ho y Wai, now turned over to the Bureau of Immigration for deportation; Wu Hing Sum, and Kin San Ho y Ho Kin San who were all sentenced for violation of Section 15 (Sale, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Transportation and Distribution of Regulated Drugs), Article III of Republic Act 6425, or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, with a penalty of reclusion perpetua.
“PDEA, in a letter dated February 13, 2019 addressed to Atty. Ronalyn M. Opiňa-Gonzaga, Chief Parole Officer of Board of Pardons and Parole, objected to the possible grant of executive clemency to due to the gravity of their offenses,” he said.
“It is very questionable why they were released,” he said, noting that PDEA had not been consulted.
In other developments:
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said he would file an amendment to RA 10592 to include a definition of heinous crimes to close any loopholes in the law.
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima blamed the government for misapplying and misinterpreting the GCTA as a way of reviving the death penalty. “Maybe it was precisely to enrage the public, and to garner public support for the death penalty, that Guevarra announced Sanchez’s impending release. If yes, it was a costly tactic that backfired on Guevarra,” De Lima said.
A Justice Department spokesman said the murder of a BuCor record keeper “seems to be unrelated” to the release of prisoners on good conduct, even though Ruperto Traya, shot dead by motorcycle-riding men in Muntinlupa City Tuesday, was in charge of processing the GCTA.
A joint committee of the Justice and Interior and Local Government departments tasked to review the GCTA rules and regulations convened Friday. It has been given 10 days to complete its review and submit its recommendations.
Guevarra assured the public that convicts who have “committed the most atrocious and reprehensible crimes against the people” won’t be allowed to avail of the expanded GCTA that would pave the way for their early release from jail. “The very real danger posed to the peace of the community and public order by the early release of those whose capacity for vengeance and for re-inflicting pain upon victimized families has compelled us not only to review and plug the possible loopholes in the IRR, but to put a temporary halt in the process that may magnify such risks,” Guevarra said.
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