The law is not to blame, only those who wish to abuse it
The recent news about the possible release of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted for a rape-slay case, has cast evil against Republic Act No. 10592, a measure that was a beacon of hope for my indigent clients when I was still with the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).
Many of our indigent clients have benefited from this law. As a PAO lawyer then, I made sure that my clients, who oftentimes commited crimes only out of poverty (e.g digging out metal scraps rotting in an open area, thinking they were just making a living out of a corporation’s waste material, or picking fruits from a private property), fully benefited from the law.
The application of RA 10592 became the alternative for my clients who could not afford to post bail. Many of them had committed minor offenses, but they could not produce even P1,000 to post reduced bail.
What I did (as most, if not all, public attorneys do) was to closely coordinate with the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). I would periodically request for the computation of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) of my clients.
Fortunately, the paralegal team of the BJMP was more than happy to assist. They would even go the extra mile and give me periodic updates on the names of the accused, crimes charged, dates of arrest and GCTA earned of all inmates whose cases were pending in my court assignments, without them being asked.
Whenever I saw that clients had served at least the minimum of the imposable penalty vis-à-vis the crime charged against them, I would move for their release on recognizance without prejudice to the continuation of the trial of their cases.
There were times when my PDL (persons deprived of liberty) clients would talk to me during hearings, as they were instructed by the BJMP to tell me that they had already served the minimum imposable sentence if computed with GCTA. I would take it from there.
I would talk to my clients and explain the nature of their release; and, believe it or not, I cannot recall a single client who escaped the judicial process. They were the most respectful and grateful clients. They would usually attend succeeding hearings with some of their family members. Those were among the best sights I have seen, which have brought me joy in a hectic job.
In 2017, RA 10951 was passed into law. It adjusted the penalty imposed on certain crimes. It has become the B2 of our B1 (RA 10592) in asking for releases.
Let us not blame the law for the evils of those who want to abuse it. If properly implemented, the law as it is could serve as an inspiration to PDLs to reform and, later on, to be reintegrated as productive members of society.
I long for the day when this controversy will be over, and when RA 10592 will no longer be associated with Mayor Sanchez and his cohorts.
HENDRIX C. BONGALON,
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