Freeze order on GCTA eyed

August 25, 2019
Menardo Guevarra

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday disclosed that the Executive Department will ask the Supreme Court to allow the suspension of the processing of applications for good conduct time allowance (GCTA).

“We will surely inform the Supreme Court about the need to temporarily suspend the processing of GCTAs until the BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) guidelines have been carefully reviewed by a DOJ task force to be constituted for the purpose. We expect the processing to pick up greater speed once the guidelines have been reviewed and firmed up,” Guevarra said in a statement.

Guevarra pointed out that this was to clear the air over the controversy brought by his recent pronouncement on the possibility that former Calauan, Laguna town mayor Antonio Sanchez might be released early.

“We are reviewing the existing guidelines for GCTA and the BuCor will henceforth base its actions on any new guidelines that will come out,” Guevarra said in a statement.

Guevarra bared that there will be a definite period within which to complete the review upon consultation with the BuCor, Bureau of Pardon and Parole, and other relevant agencies, to avoid any undue prejudice to the rights of inmates who have validly earned GCTAs.

Guevarra also said that Congress or the high court could clarify the coverage of the GCTA rule.

He noted that some lawyers have asserted that all convicted prisoners can benefit from the GCTA rule, regardless of the crimes they committed.

“Considering the view of some lawyers that all convicted prisoners, regardless of the crimes they committed, are eligible or qualified to receive the benefits of the expanded GCTA law, the Department of Justice will be glad to have this issue resolved with clarity and finality either by a congressional amendment of its own act or by an interpretation rendered by the Supreme Court in a proper case brought before it,” Guevarra said.

Republic Act No. 10592 provides that “any convicted prisoner in any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center or any other local jail” is entitled to avail of the GCTA rule.

But the law qualified that “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded” from its coverage.

Sanchez hogged the headlines once again after it was reported recently that he may be out from prison soon.

This was because of a new law increasing good conduct time allowance of prisoners (Republic Act 10592), and a recent Supreme Court decision applying this law retroactively.

Sanchez was convicted for the 1993 rape and murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and killing of her schoolmate Allan Gomez.

The verdict was handed down on March 11, 1995 by Judge Harriet Demetriou, who said that the rape and murder of Sarmenta and killing of Gomez were “a plot seemingly hatched in hell.”

The SC upheld the Laguna regional trial court ruling in 1999 against Sanchez, who is currently serving his sentence of seven terms of reclusion perpetua at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.