Robredo urges senators to focus on corruption issues in GCTA probe

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Monday, September 16, said that senators should focus on corruption issues hounding the implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law instead of diverting the Senate probe from these issues.

"Sana iyong sentro ng hearing, tingnan ano ba iyong mga korapsyon na nagaganap at bakit siya nagaganap? Mahirap na ilihis ito kasi kapag nalihis siya sa tunay na pangyayari, baka paulit-ulit na mangyari," Robredo told reporters in a media interview.

(I hope that the center of the hearing would be focused on the issue of corruption and why it is happening. We can't simply steer away from it because it might happen again.)

Robredo said that the focus has shifted away from those involved in corrupt practices, to villifying the people behind the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 10592 or the GCTA law.

"Ang sama noong mensaheng binibigay: Kung mayaman ka, you can get away with anything; kung mahirap ka, sorry ka na lang. Dapat sana iyon iyong i-cure na, collateral damage nitong mga nangyayari sa Bureau of Corrections," the vice president said.

(It sends a bad message across: If you're rich, you can get away with anything; If you're poor, sorry. What should be cured is the idea that there are those deemed to be collateral damage because of what is happening at the Bureau of Corrections.)

The marathon Senate hearings on the GCTA law started from pinning fired prisons chief Nicanor Faeldon for allowing the botched release of rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez; to alleged corruption that allowed the awarding of early release; and eventually to insinuating that detained Senator Leila de Lima earned money from the "GCTA for sale" scheme.

The vice president noted that former Department of Justice secretary and now Supreme Court Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa had issued Department Order No. 953 to fill in the gaps of the IRR of the law that sought to award early releases to inmates based on good conduct.

DO 953 limits the power of the Bureau of Corrections chief by ordering that the justice secretary has the final say on releasing inmates who were sentenced to reclusion perpetua. (READ: Gaps by both Aquino, Duterte administrations led to GCTA mess)

"Dapat ang tanong: Ano ba iyong dahilan kung bakit nagkaloko-loko iyong application ng GCTA? Is it because of the law o dahil ba ito sa implementation ng law?" Robredo said.

(The question should be: What are the reasons why the application of GCTA went wrong? Is it because of the law or it because of its implementation?)

She added: "Hindi lang mabigyan ng chance [si De Lima at si Roxas], pero kung talagang may pagkukulang iyong batas, i-correct. Pero sana, hindi mawala iyong investigation doon sa allegations of corruption, saka iyong sa bakit nangyayari ito sa pag-implement ng batas."

(We should not only give De Lima and Roxas a chance, but if there's a gap in the law, it should be corrected. But I hope that investigation into the allegations of corruption won't be a lost cause, and the question of why the implementation of the law is like this.)

It was during De Lima's and former interior secretary Mar Roxas' time when the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government published the implementing rules and regulations of the GCTA law.

The 2013 law became the center of controversy after the DOJ revealed that Sanchez was supposedly among the 11,000 inmates up for early release because of the law's retroactive application, as ruled by the Supreme Court.

After public outcry, the DOJ suspended the release of inmates based on the GCTA law. Lawmakers also moved to review the law. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.