TURNING POINT: Heinous Crime: The Second Chance

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 21 September) — Heinous crime convicts who are sentenced to reclusion perpetua or imprisonment for life are not entitled anymore to good conduct time allowance because, if not for the abolition of death penalty, they would already be dead. You don’t give any allowance to the dead; there’s no point.

Death is the final solution to end the menace and to secure society from the threat of a soulless criminal. But for the abolition of death penalty, the deadly criminals have to be confined in maximum security prison for life for the same purpose as putting them to death. And they ought to remain there until they have fully served their sentence and would no longer pose a grave threat to the security and peace of society.

However, while a life sentence is a prison term that typically lasts for one’s lifetime, our laws – the Revised Penal Code, prescribes a maximum detention period of 40 years, and RA 4103 – the Indeterminate Sentence law – even allows the possibility of early release through parole or pardon for good behaviour and other meritorious reasons. Hence the grant of good conduct time allowance to prisoners applies and is in consonance with the spirit and practice of existing laws.

In the light, however, of the public uproar on the release of heinous crime prisoners under the GCTA law, there might be a need to amend the Revised Penal Code, the Indeterminate Sentence Law, and any other related laws and issuances to explicitly prescribe that heinous crime convicts shall in no circumstance be entitled to early release. It shall be mandatory for them to serve their term and shall only be freed for good behaviour after 40 years of imprisonment.

Is it not discriminatory to exclude lifers from the privilege of early release enjoyed by the rest of prisoners? It might be but we cannot help but discriminate them because of the gravity of their crimes and the hazards and threat they pose to society. Society has to protect itself.

By such exclusion are they not being deprived of a “second chance” in life? Actually, giving them a life term instead of death as a sentence, despite the unspeakable gravity of the crime they committed, is already giving them a second chance. Spared from death, a lifer is given a new leash in life, a chance to review and to renew his life – to redeem himself. How he conducts in prison will spell his freedom and the opportunity and readiness to re-join society. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines)

 

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