A Senate Hearing probe that reveals where justice stops
(Part 2 of “Justice for Eileen and Allan”)
EDITOR'S CORNER
Over a Cup of Tea
Heidi M. Pascual
Publisher & Editor
2006 Journalist of the year
for the State of Wisconsin
(US-SBA)
old inmates who are sick and infirm and ready to face their Maker,
so they can be with their families for the last time.
I am also for the
release of innocent people convicted and served terms that they
didn't deserve in the first place.
But not hardened criminals—rapists,
murderers and drug lords -- who destroy our people, especially our
youth who are supposed to be our future leaders!


In fairness to President Rodrigo Duterte, he acted immediately the
evening after this particular hearing. He fired the head of the Bureau
of Corrections, a military general and “one of Duterte’s friends and
supporters.” He also ordered that ALL convicts already released
under the “good conduct law” surrender within 15 days for a
reevaluation of their cases and/or recomputation of their shortened
sentences under the law. Duterte made it clear that all convicts of
heinous crimes should not be included in such grant of liberty. He
likewise called for the investigation of the bureau staff and its
processes, to cleanse the agency of undesirables and see how
justice is bent for a fee.

The smell of corruption truly angered the general public, particularly
when it was revealed that almost two thousand convicts have been
released under this law, including those serving life sentences for
murder, rape, and drugs. Indeed, we are not even aware that we
now have in our midst these many convicts of crimes that justified
their long sentences in the lockup. The families of their victims are
crying foul, expressing their disgust to this unjust turn of events, and
for some, such as former judges, witnesses, investigators and
prosecutors, their fear for retaliation from the people they worked
hard to apprehend and put to jail.

Well, hopefully, these convicts who were released due to “good
conduct” surrender peacefully. Otherwise, Duterte will not blink an
eye if ever he orders their surrender dead or alive after his 15-day
deadline. Meanwhile, the legislature is looking at either amending
the good conduct law to exclude heinous crimes and to clarify a just
computation or consideration of release, or repealing the law
altogether.
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The law that almost enabled convicted rapist and murderer former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez to go free due
to “Good Conduct” is vague. This was the main gist of the discussions at the Philippines Senate’s Blue Ribbon
Committee Hearing on September 2. The law does not specifically exclude convicts of heinous and drug-related
crimes from its coverage. Also, there is no clear definition of “heinous” in the law itself. Aside from this finding, the
committee also discovered that freedom is for sale, a lucrative business in the Bureau of Corrections, encouraged
and ongoing, primarily because of the “good conduct law.”


The present Bureau of Corrections head (who was formerly the Bureau of Customs chief when a multibillion drug
smuggling was discovered more than a year ago) admitted that he signed a “warrant for release” of some
inmates, which included Sanchez. As a result of the “good conduct law,” more than 2,000 inmates have been
released, including convicted rapists, murderers, and Chinese drug lords. It was clear that convicts’ sentences
were cut short due to a computation of good conduct and “loyalty” done and approved at the Bureau of Corrections, that drove people watching and
listening to the hearing to think that something fishy is going on, that justice, after all, seems to stop within the prison walls. To add insult to injury,
a few days before this hearing, a records officer of the Bureau of Corrections (privy to the official records of inmates) was slain by motorcycle-riding
masked men. A senator even bluntly asked the Bureau of Corrections head, how much would it cost to be included in the list of inmates with
“good conduct”.


Personally, I thought I was watching a movie while I followed what’s going on with this case!

Because of public outcry on the forthcoming release from prison of Sanchez (who had seven counts of reclusion perpetua and who never followed
the court decision to indemnify the victims’ families), President Rodrigo Duterte announced that this convict cannot be freed. However, many
inmates with similar cases though not as celebrated, have been released, prompting legal folks to say that this question will surely reach the
Supreme Court, as the law is vague and subject to interpretations depending on who will or will not benefit from it.

I feel sorry that tons of money, time and effort were wasted by the government’s law enforcement folks just to apprehend and put criminals to
prison. It’s a mockery of justice to “empower” certain individuals to cut the criminals’ sentences short due to a questionable arithmetic
computation which we, the general public and electorate, don’t even know about. Well, the truth is, as a Christian, I’d agree for the release of very