GCTA mess ‘best argument’ against death penalty – Atienza

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FILE PHOTO. Bureau of Corrections

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — A party-list lawmaker and staunch opponent of the death penalty on Thursday said the ongoing fiasco over the implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law is the “best argument” against the proposed return of the capital punishment.

“I look at this particular corruption issue in the BuCor (Bureau of Corrections), the latest scandal hitting all of us, [it] is my best argument against death penalty,” Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza told CNN Philippines’s The Source Thursday.

The BuCor comes under fire for the questionable release of some heinous crime convicts under the GCTA scheme, which shaves off time from an inmate’s sentence on the basis of good behavior.

On the center of the issue is the now-revoked early release of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was behind the rape-slay of two University of the Philippines Los Baños students in 1993 and a father and son in 1996. The issue has raised calls by some senators to reinstate the death penalty.

READ: Antonio Sanchez's possible release revives calls to reinstate death penalty

Atienza, however, said bringing back the policy will even open the BuCor to more corruption.

The lawmaker added that the “anti-poor” and “pro-rich” policy will only favor wealthy and powerful inmates.

“If you have corrupt criminal justice system as being exposed today, eh ang masisilya elektrika o ang mapapatay lang na kriminal mahihirap. Kung mayaman ka, you just spend a little time, and then they will find a way of releasing you,” he said.

[Translation: If you have corrupt criminal justice system as being exposed today, those who will be sentenced to death will be the poor inmates. If you are rich, you just spend a little time, and then they will find a way of releasing you.]

“If there is a death penalty, ang hihingin sayo sa simula pa ng problema mo sa pulis mas malaki, sa piskal mas malaki dahil corrupt, sa judge mas malaki. Sa BuCor kapag nakulong ka na, espesyal ka kung may pera ka, hindi ka mabibitay,” Atienza also said.

[Translation: If there is a death penalty, convicts will be asked to pay big amount of money right at the beginning of the case, then bigger amount will be asked by the fiscal and the judge. In the BuCor, you are special if you have money, you will not be sentenced to death.]

The death penalty was abolished under the 1986 Constitution, but the Charter gave Congress the power to reinstate it for heinous crimes. Capital punishment returned under the administration of President Fidel Ramos, but was abolished again under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Philippines is also a signatory to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which commits countries to abolish death penalty.