MANILA, Philippines – Designed to reform the prison system, the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law has exposed, ironically, what continues to ail Philippine jails.
The scandal triggered by the now-botched release of convicted murder and rapist Antonio Sanchez has caused the suspension of the law, the dismissal of a prisons chief, and the administrative punishment of his deputies. It has also exposed a new form of corruption inside the New Bilibid Prison – “GCTA for sale.”
But since the law’s enactment in 2013, the government claimed that a total of 1,914 heinous crime convicts have already been released on the basis of the good conduct provisions spelled out in the GCTA.
On President Rodrigo Duterte’s orders, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is in the thick of putting each back in jail again. To Duterte, their freedom has become “null and void.”
Who are these hundreds who have just been freed but are set to be imprisoned again?
Rappler obtained and analyzed the complete list of the 1,914 from a source in the PNP. This is the list that’s being used as basis for the rearrests. Here’s what we found:
- Not all of the 1,914 heinous crime convicts were released because of the GCTA law
- Most of them are murder and rape convicts just like Sanchez, the former Calauan mayor
- Most of them were released under the Duterte administration
- Most of them are from Eastern Visayas
The list of 1,914 obtained by Rappler ends its count on August 13, a week before news broke that Sanchez was going to be released due to the GCTA. The processing of GCTA releases was suspended on August 26.
Are they really 1,914?
Of the freed heinous crime convicts, most of them – 1,687 – were released after their time in prison was slashed through the GCTA.
But the rest, or a total of 227, were released under circumstances not directly related to the GCTA.
At least 213 of them were released through “parole,” according to the list, which means that they were allowed to complete their sentences outside detention by the Board of Pardons and Parole.
The factors that can affect the granting of parole include good behavior, but this is not related to the same system put in place by the GCTA, where the time to be served is reduced through good behavior.
BuCor also accounted for 14 who have been released through pardon, a path to freedom independent of GCTA as it is granted by the President – regardless of good conduct.
The list also does not include other reported heinous crimes convicts who were freed, like the Chiong murder convicts who were released in the last two weeks of August 2019 (at least two have surrendered).
Most have something in common with Antonio Sanchez
Most of the released prisoners were convicts in rape and murder. The 1,914 convicts tally 805 rape convictions and 813 murder convictions. Three of the 1,914 were convicted of both.
The two crimes make up the majority of the offenses of the freed prisoners, followed far by robbery, a crime that 255 prisoners were found guilty of committing.
Drug convicts comprise a relatively small chunk of the freed convicts: 48. Of this number, 38 were convicted of illegal drugs sale, 7 for possession, then one each for importation, cultivation, and conspiracy.
There were 29 freed inmates convicted of parricide or killing a parent. One was convicted of triple murder.
The 1,914 were classified as heinous criminals based on Republic Act 7659.
Most of them were released under the Duterte administration
Most of the convicts were released under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
His administration set free 1,618 convicts in 3 years – from July 1, 2016 up to August 2019.
This number dwarfs the releases under the Aquino administration – 296 in 3 years, from July 2013 to June 2016. During the first year of the law in 2013, only one prisoner was released through GCTA.
On average, the Duterte administration released 496 heinous crime convicts per year in 3 years, while the Aquino administration only released 98 per year within the same time period.
This year alone, 816 have been released, which is more than double the number of convicts released in the 3 years that the law was enforced under Aquino.
Senators probing the controversial releases unearthed two possible factors behind the rise in the number of freed convicts in the last 3 years:
- The first is that the BuCor under Duterte skipped the rule that the Department of Justice Secretary must be the final approving authority for GCTA releases for prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment.
- The second is the Supreme Court’s decision in June 2019, or barely two months before the scandal broke, to allow the government to apply the GCTA law retroactively – covering prisoners convicted before the law was passed in 2013. But if this were the sole reason for this year’s big numbers, this means BuCor worked overtime from June to facilitate the releases – something that a whistle-blower alluded to in a Senate hearing last week. (READ: Bato dela Rosa eyed power to release convicts as BuCor chief)
Most of them are from Eastern Visayas
Most of the freed convicts, 363 of them, registered their addresses to be in Eastern Visayas.
Eastern Visayas is followed by Metro Manila, where 255 resided before their imprisonment.
The regions which were listed least as the place of residence by the freed convicts are the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (7 convicts), the Cordillera Administrative Region (25 convicts), and Soccsksargen (37 convicts).
The province which was called home by most convicts is also in the Eastern Visayas – Leyte, which registered a tally of 224.
A far second after Leyte is Cebu, with 109 convicts registering their address in the thriving province in Central Visayas.
However, not all of them call the Philippines home.
Some 15 foreigners registered their home addresses to be in other countries: 7 from Hong Kong, 5 from Malaysia, then one each from Taiwan, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.
One released convict did not list an address. – Rappler.com
TOP GRAPHIC by Alejandro Edoria/Rappler
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