CEBU, Philippines — Twenty-two years since the kidnapping, rape, and killing of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in Cebu, the men convicted in the case have reportedly been set free under the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law, Senator Panfilo Lacson told dzBB yesterday.
It is unclear, however, who among Francisco Juan “Paco” Larañaga, Jozman Aznar, Rowen Wesley Adlawan, Alberto Allan “Pahak” Cano, Ariel Balansag, James Andrew “MM” Uy and James Anthony Uy have been released.
Larrañaga, for one, has been sent to Spain to serve sentence there through the Transfer of Sentence Agreement because of his dual citizenship.
Lacson said it was not Bureau of Corrections Director Nicanor Faeldon who signed the release papers.
“Na-release na rin yan (suspects in Chiong sisters rape-slay) pero ang nakapirma roon iba. Hindi mismong si [Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director] Nicanor Faeldon ang nakapirma. Ang balita ko a certain Marquez ang nagpirma roon (They have been released, although I learned that the release papers were not signed by Bureau of Corrections Director Faeldon, but by a certain Marquez),” Lacson said.
“Pero ang may authority magpirma ng release order ay ang director ng BuCor. Ngayon kung sino man ang pipirma na underling, subaltern or sinumang assistant doon, ang ultimate responsibility pa rin, ang director (Only the BuCor director has the authority to release inmates),” he said.
A report from CNN Philippines said that those who were released are Aznar, Caño and Balansag. The release orders, dated August 16, said the three have already served 40 years upon retroactive application of Republic Act No. 10592.
The three convicts, according to the documents obtained by the network, were “certified to have no other legal cause to be further detained” and “shall be released from confinement.”
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said earlier the convicted suspects in the Chiong case may also benefit from the GCTA law.
Reports of the possible release of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez who was convicted for rape and murder drew massive attention to Republic Act 10592, the law that increased the GCTA granted to inmates.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has since suspended the processing of the early release of inmates under the GCTA Law.
Just yesterday, Malacañang said Sanchez will not be freed. It said that inmates convicted of heinous crimes that were freed because of the good conduct time allowance should be sent back to prison because they are not qualified to be released early.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Republic Act 10592, which reduces jail sentence of inmates who displayed good behavior, is very clear about the exclusion of those charged and convicted of heinous crimes, escapees, habitual delinquents and recidivists.
“Obviously they should be sent back to jail until they served the full term of their service,” Panelo said in a press briefing.
“The President, at the inception of his career as public official, his slogan was and is until now ‘What the law is, just follow it,'” he added.
Panelo said the release of the inmates who committed heinous crimes is a violation of the law.
Panelo said the freed inmates may be rearrested because they are not qualified for early release. Rearresting the inmates requires a court order but the presidential spokesman said it would be up to the justice department to handle the matter.
Panelo said it would be up to Congress to decide whether to amend the GCTA law, which was signed into law in 2013.
“The wisdom on that amendment of the law lies on Congress. We won’t interfere. We will just implement,” he said.
Lacson said a source told him money speaks at the NBP.
“Sabi ng source ko sa NBP, talagang pera-pera nga raw (I was told that money talks in the NBP),” he said.
He pointed out that those who have been released are those who have money to spare.
“So far, ang nakikita natin, mga may kaya ang mga nare-release. Ang convict sa Chiong sisters, mga may kaya yan sa Cebu. Kay Antonio Sanchez may kaya definitely yan. Pagkatapos itong mga Chinese drug lords, siguradong may kaya (There is a trend that the moneyed convicts are getting released, including those involved in the Chiong case, Sanchez and the Chinese drug lords),” Lacson pointed out.
Lacson earlier revealed that five Chinese nationals convicted of drug offenses have been released from prison also because of “good conduct”.
“Ano ang background nila, ano ang kakayahan nila? Kasi kung naiiwan doon ang walang kakayanan at ang makapag-avail lang ng GCTA ang may kaya, maski papaano mag-iisip tayo,” Lacson added.
PBA party-list Representative Jericho Nograles said over 1,500 convicted rapists and murderers have been released from prison from 2013 to 2019 due to “good conduct”.
In a Facebook post, Nograles said from 2013, a total of 22,049 convicts were released due to the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA). Of this number, 1,914 were convicted of heinous crimes like destructive arson (three convicts), kidnapping with serious illegal detention (five convicts), parricide (25 convicts), dangerous drugs (48 convicts), robbery with violence (274 convicts), rape (758 convicts), and murder (797 convicts).
GCTAs are provided for by R.A. 10592, a 2013 law that amends a number of provisions of the Revised Penal Code on time allowances and credit for preventive imprisonment of inmates.
In June, the Supreme Court declared that the law should be applied retroactively, or even on cases that took place before the enactment of the measure.
The Bureau of Corrections has refused to release the names of the thousands of inmates who may be granted the GCTA. — JMO (FREEMAN)