by Heidi M. Pascual
Justice for Eileen and Allan (Part 2)
.A Senate Hearing probe that reveals where justice stops

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 ring 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 old inmates who are sick and infirm and ready to face their Maker, so they can be with their families for the last time. 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.