At least 15 foreigners jailed for heinous drug crimes freed through GCTA

MANILA, Philippines – At least 15 foreigners have been released through the much-disputed Good Conduct Time Allowance  (GCTA) law since its enactment in 2013, Rappler has learned.

Based on the list of 1,914 heinous crime convicts released since 2013 obtained by Rappler, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has released 7 from Hong Kong, 5 from Malaysia, then one each from Taiwan, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.

All of them have been convicted for dealing drugs except for one, but they had been classified as heinous crime convicts.

Based on the list, all of them were also sentenced to serve reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. But they were released earlier – thanks to the GCTA, which lets prisoners reduce their time in incarceration if they behave.

Hong Kong locals: All those recorded to have come from Hong Kong were convicted for the sale of illegal drugs and were released between June 2017 and July 2019.

Ho, Sum, and Yue were earlier tagged by Senator Panfilo Lacson as “Chinese drug lords,” along with a certain Che Ching.

Based on the list obtained by Rappler, Che registered his address as Makati City with the BuCor.

In an earlier announcement, Bureau of Immigration (BI) deputy spokesman Melvin Mabulac, said the 4 were released from Bilibid then transferred to the BI’s warden facility.

Malaysians: All the Malaysians were also convicted for illegal drugs sale, and were released between October 2018 and July 2019.

The last 3: The lone Taiwanese was the only one convicted of illegal drugs possession.

Why does this matter? Even foreigners are included in President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to surrender again to police within 15 days, as the GCTA law faces controversy after the possibility of releasing convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez ignited a firestorm.

Beyond the 1,914 reported by the BuCor who have committed heinous crimes, some 20,000 convicts with lesser offenses are also at risk of returning to prison as the law faces renewed scrutiny. The order has met opposition from lawyers as the Revised Penal Code prohibits the revocation of good conduct time allowance.

The tally also shows how the GCTA law controversy in the Philippines already crosses borders. In a press briefing on September 5, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said they will try to extradite the foreigners if ever they have returned to their home countries.

Of the countries mentioned above, however, only Hong Kong and Taiwan have extradition treaties with the Philippines.

If the other foreigners had left already, local police can only arrest them again should they return to the Philipines or if Filipino cops can convince their foreign police counterparts to help them rearrest the convicts.


Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.