Insisting that “the law is not the problem,” Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has blamed the government’s misapplication and misinterpretation of good conduct time allowance (GCTA) to pursue its insidious agenda of reviving the death penalty.
“Huwag dapat sisihin yung batas. Maayos ang layunin ng R.A. 10592. Pero, dahil sa kapalpakan ng ilang opisyal, sinadya man o hindi, pilit nilang binabaluktot ang tunay na diwa ng batas na yan. Pinipilit na naman nila ang death penalty,” De Lima said in her Dispatch from Crame Nos. 577 and 578 she issued last Aug. 23 and 24, respectively.
The former justice secretary was referring to Republic Act (RA) 10592, or the GCTA Law which amended several articles under the Revised Penal Code, including Article 97 which lays out the allowance for good conduct for persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).
GCTA Law allows the reduction of sentences, depending on how well they abide by rules and regulations while inside “any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center or any other local jail.”
According to De Lima, the premature announcement of the supposed release of rape and murder convict and former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez could be part of a propaganda blitz to drumbeat support for the revival of death penalty law.
Sanchez received seven life sentences for the rape-slay of UP Los Baños students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez in 1993.
“Mukhang sinasabotahe nila yung batas para isulong nila ang death penalty. Ginalit na naman nila ang mga tao para mas katanggap-tanggap ang death penalty. Devious minds!” De Lima said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier announced Sanchez and the 13 Bilibid inmates used as witnesses in the trumped-up drug charges against De Lima as among those who will be released under R.A. 10592 or the GCTA Law.
Sanchez’s planned release drew public outrage, forcing Guevarra to order a review of current guidelines used by the Bureau of Corrections in computing the time allowances given to inmates.
The lady Senator from Bicol said Guevarra should have exercised prudence by checking the very provisions of R.A. 10592, its implementing rules and regulations and the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on the case involving the NBP inmates before making the announcement.
“It appears to me that Guevarra’s premature announcement was a trial balloon of some sort, but which was immediately burst by an enraged public,” said De Lima, the staunchest critic of the Duterte government’s crooked and oppressive policies.
“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,” she added.
Instead of floating death penalty as panacea to rising crime in the country, De Lima called on the government to stop favoring criminals, especially those who allowed themselves to be used as perjured witnesses against political opponents.
Considered as a prisoner of conscience, De Lima remains in detention for two years and a half now for obviously politically-motivated trumped-up drug charges fabricated by the administration using convicted and perjured criminals as witnesses.