Makabayan files two pro-witness bills amid GCTA mess

Published September 9, 2019, 9:05 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Ellson Quismorio

The controversy surrounding the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law has caused the militant Makabayan Bloc to file two bills that would benefit squealers of acts of corruption in government.

Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Party list Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)
Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate
(Bayan Muna Party list FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

Filed by the six-member party-list bloc were House Bill (HB) no.4387, or the proposed Act providing for the protection, security, and benefits of whistleblowers, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes; and HB no.4388, or the proposed Act strengthening the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program, amending for the purpose Republic Act (RA) no.6981, otherwise known as ‘Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act,’ and providing additional funds therefor.

“It is sad that one of the witnesses on the ‘GCTA scam’ got cold feet and backed out but with the enactment of HB 4387 and 4388, they would be a whole new mechanism for their safety among others,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, the most senior member of Makabayan in the current 18th Congress.

The two pro-witness measures were filed last September 4.

Two days later, Senator Richard Gordon bared amid an ongoing Senate inquiry that a witness on the alleged misapplication of the GCTA rule among New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmates had changed his mind and backed out. Gordon said the witness was a “lieutenant.”

Republic Act (RA) 10592, which increases the GCTA of prisoners, has come under scrutiny after convicted rapist-killer, former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez was nearly released last month due to good behavior credits. This outraged the public especially since Sanchez had been sentenced to seven life terms for the rape-slay of Eileen Sarmienta and the killing of her companion, Allan Gomez in 1993.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra, during the agency’s defense of its proposed P21.7 billion for 2020 last week, admitted to House members that there had been a misapplication of the GCTA rule since the previous Aquino administration.

This has resulted in the release of 1,914 inmates, some of whom were heinous crime convicts. The Senate probe, on the other hand, has uncovered signs that Bureau of Correction (BuCor) has been abusing the GCTA rule in exchange for money.

Zarate, a House Deputy Minority leader, made a dare to President Rodrigo as far as their twin bills are concerned.

“If the Duterte administration is truly sincere in its corruption drive and is sincerely looking for the truth then it would certify these bills as urgent and move for their immediate approval,” said Zarate.

“If enacted, the bills would also prevent double standards and special treatment as well as penalize false witnesses and whistleblowers,” added the Davao-based lawmaker.

Despite the fact that Sanchez wasn’t able to walk free, President Duterte still sacked BuCor Director-General Nicanor Faeldon last week. Before this, Faeldon was reported to have signed a release order for the ex-mayor dated August 20.