On Sanchez release: Faeldon says he just followed GCTA guidelines

MANILA, Philippines – After the public outcry over the planned early release of prisoners, Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon said he merely followed the guidelines, and that he wished he had the discretion not to do so.

At the Senate hearing on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law, Faeldon said on Monday, September 2, that he had consulted with the "experts" on the measure, who told him that releasing the prisoners on the basis of sufficient good conduct is the "way to do it."

"In fact, the lawyer beside me said, 'If you release these PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) with heinous crimes, through GCTA, there can never be a crime filed against you because it’s legal. But if you hold them, there will be a case against you. Releasing them is the legal way of doing it,'" Faeldon said.

The 2013 GCTA law provided for new guidelines on how to compute "good conduct time" that is the basis for reducing prison terms.

The controversy broke when the Department of Justice revealed that rape and murder convict Antonio Sanchez was supposedly among the 11,000 inmates up for early release. In 1995, Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, was sentenced to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua after he committed the crime in 1993.

Just following the law

Senator Richard Gordon, the Senate blue committee chair, asked Faeldon if including Sanchez in the early release list is the right thing to do.

Faeldon said that he did not sign any release order to officially let Sanchez out of Bilibid, but admitted that he signed a memorandum of release starting the process.

Sanchez's family claimed that the Calauan ex-mayor was supposed to be out by August 20.

"There was never a completed release order of ex-mayor Sanchez. I signed a memorandum order that is the signal of the process of all papers, that is after I have consulted with the lawyers why we are signing this," Faeldon said.

"I stopped the process," he added. (READ: Faeldon ordered Sanchez release, but stopped it after outcry)

Faeldon said that, personally, he would not want Sanchez to be out, but insisted that he's just following the law. He said he didn't know Sanchez was denied executive clemency.

"The application of the law, that [was] explained to me, does not distinguish," he said.

Chinese drug lords

Gordon then asked about the Chinese drug lords who were released in June: "'Di ba tumalikod ka sa tiwala sa 'yo ng Pangulong Duterte. 'Di mo ba tinalikuran kung palalayain mo 'to? Kahit nangongonsulta ka, the buck stops with you."

(Aren't you betraying the trust given to you by President Duterte? If you release them, isn't that a betrayal? Even if you are consulting, the buck stops with you.)

Faeldon replied: "I would appreciate [it] if I have the discretion to not follow the rules."

After a public outcry, the DOJ suspended the release of inmates based on the GCTA. Malacañang and the lawmakers wanted heinous crime convicts to be excluded from benefitting from the law.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has the same interpretation. Guevarra on Thursday said that the controversy was a "blessing in disguise" to review the law.

At the Senate, Gordon had already filed a bill seeking to amend the GCTA law.  – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.

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