‘Only for those favored by the powerful:’ Karapatan hits corruption, irony and impunity amid GCTA Law mess

Human rights group Karapatan assailed the abuse of power committed by government officials as records and testimonies unveiled how hundreds of detainees convicted of heinous and drug-related charges were freed from prison amid individuals still suffering from imprisonment because of wrongful conviction, minimal offenses, trumped-up accusations, and inability to seek competent counsel.
In August, the looming release of convicted rapist-murderer and former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez have sparked conversations and legal inquiries on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law which was the basis used by those in power to order the release of a number of infamous convicts, including the murderers of the Chiong sisters, and big-time druglords in the country. The law gives additional time to be taken from an inmate’s sentence as a reward for his good behavior in jail. The said law was exploited by moneyed and influential criminals to bribe their way out of jail.

"The implementation of the GCTA law exposed the corruption and the ineffectiveness of our justice system, which ultimately favors the rich. Faeldon and his predecessors, as well as the entire government, used this law as a milking cow to sell freedom to the undeserving for a price. While the GCTA law was based on the promotion of restorative justice, it was instead used as a vessel for impunity, injustice, and corruption. It is a reflection of how this government works," Jigs Clamor, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General said.

“Sanchez was almost released, but was kept in jail due to public outrage. Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo and BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon stretched the limits of semantics when they relied heavily on word play to avoid implication to the GCTA mess. Even while Sanchez remains in jail, many other monsters were released and according to reports by the DILG, are already out of the country. How convenient for the criminals backed by a government which supposedly masterminds a drug war, but is complicit to the release of convicted Chinese and Taiwanese drug lords. The irony is through the roof!" Clamor remarked.

According to Clamor, it is also important to note how Sanchez was able to have his papers signed, and how other convicts was able to either be released from jail or receive special treatment: “There is no doubt that this is systematic, and a long corrupt practice that is now coming to light. Faeldon is involved and complicity, even permission, goes straight to the top. Previous BuCor chiefs, including Senator "Bato" Dela Rosa, should likewise be investigated and the GCTA law should be reviewed. Duterte still talks about how Faeldon is a righteous man, which is a clear attempt to get him off the hook. The fact that Duterte still considers appointing Faeldon - - a man who lets 'slip' billions of drugs in the country and lets loose drug lords - - indicates this government's involvement and complicity in the proliferation of the drug trade in the country, and desperation to keep Faeldon's loyalty. "

Karapatan also hit Panelo's immediate threat to file libel against media outfits Inquirer and Rappler. Clamor said that "this is consistent with how the Duterte government responds to questions and investigations on irregularities. Despite the very clear conflict of interest in Panelo's involvement, he is quick to threaten the media. This is also the line of many paid trolls lurking in social media. When everything spiraled further down the drain, Duterte was forced to address the public, and save Panelo and Faeldon. Magically, everything is now the fault of the previous government or the media."

Clamor also raised the dangers of having former military men littered in the bureaucracy: "They are molded to follow orders without question, which is why the militarization of the bureaucracy is a danger to the realization of our rights. Military officials will not stop to think critically and assess whether actions and policies are for the welfare of the people, instead they are purposely made to be blindly obedient. This is affirmed by Faeldon, who said he does what he is told. His masters rush to protect and coddle Faeldon, as he is surprisingly spared from being used as a scapegoat. Perhaps he is privy to some crucial information damaging to his masters."

“It has also come to our attention that the druglords who testified against now detained Senator Leila De Lima were transferred to the Marines barracks, while some other druglords in the country were already released. Truly, the Duterte regime is not committed to ending the illegal drug trade in the country, only in politically persecuting its opponents. There is no war on drugs, only a war against the poor,” he reiterated.

"Drug lords and unremorseful monsters are being released after years of airconditioned jail time while political prisoners charged with trumped-up charges remain in cramped up jail cells," Clamor noted, citing that based on the data gathered by Karapatan, as of June 2019, there are 545 political prisoners in the country - 288 of which were arrested under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte. Out of these 545 detainees all over the Philippines, 44 are elderly while 118 are sick and have various types of illnesses including life-threatening ones.

As the release of Sanchez was botched because of public outrage, we call on everyone to continue being vigilant on the corrupt and criminal acts of this government.

“The entire GCTA fiasco shows the unwillingness of this government to prosecute its allies, rather choosing to whitewash their crimes. We urge for a review of the GCTA law, to ensure that it will be used for its intended purpose. Punitive measures, such as the death penalty, will further endanger the poor who are already disadvantaged by a justice system that favors the rich and the powerful," concluded Clamor.