The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) last Friday, January 7, released from New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City Juanito T. Itaas, a suspected member of the New People’s Army (NPA), who was convicted of the 1989 murder of United States Army Col. James Rowe.
The release of Itaas, ordered by a decision of the Regional Court of First Instance (RTC) of Muntinlupa City, was confirmed in a statement released on Saturday January 8 by Fides Lim, spokesperson for Kapatid, a group of relatives and friends of political prisoners in the country.
Itaas was arrested on August 27, 1989. He was convicted in 1991 of the murder of Rowe and the attempted murder of Rowe’s driver, Joaquin Binuya, while on their way to the Joint US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) in Quezon City. Rowe was then the deputy commander of JUSMAG.
In a 28-page decision dated November 8, RTC judge Gener M. Gito upheld the habeas corpus petition filed by Jarel M. Itaas who requested the release of his convicted father.
In his decision, Judge Gito noted that the petition challenged the 2019 Amended Rules of Application and Regulation (IRR) of Republic Law No.10592, the Law on Good Conduct Time Allowance. (GCTA), to exclude those convicted of heinous crimes from obtaining GCTA which would reduce their prison sentence.
Ruling that Itaas “is entitled to be credited with days equivalent to the GCTAs he has earned”, the judge said:
“Sir. Itaas was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Colonel Rowe and to ten (10) years and one (1) day in prison not less than seventeen (17) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of temporary imprisonment at most for the crime of murder with frustration against Binuya.
âBy virtue of the two (2) convictions, Mr. Itaas must serve a total of thirty-nine (39) years and six (6) months of imprisonment. Considering that he has already served thirty-two (32) years, one (1) month and twelve (12) days and applying the GCTA that he has already acquired, i.e. ten thousand seven hundred and fifty-eight (10,758) days or twenty-nine (29) years, five (5) months and twenty-three (23) days, Mr. Itaas is deemed to have already served his sentence for his two convictions.
The judge ruled that Article 2, Rule IV of the 2019 TRI amended the TRI to be ultra vires (beyond its authority) because it “goes beyond what the law provides” and “exceeds the law it seeks to implement â.
The IRR has indicated that those ineligible for GCTA credits are repeat offenders, habitual offenders, escapees and persons deprived of liberty (PDL) convicted of heinous crimes.
However, Judge Gito pointed out that the IRR’s provision is based on Article 1 of RA 10592 which amended Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code which provides that the credit for âpreventive imprisonment will be deducted from the sentence of life imprisonment âbutâ repeat offenders, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons accused of heinous crimes are excluded from the scope of this law. “
“However, the Court is of the opinion that the expression” on condition, finally, that repeat offenders, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons accused of heinous crimes are excluded from the scope of this law “, cannot not be used as a justification for the widening of the exceptions to the advantages provided for by RA 10592. This sentence strictly speaking only concerns the accused persons referred to in Article 29 of the CPP – those who are in preventive detention â, he added. he explains.
“We welcome the court ruling and hope it portends further releases of political prisoners who face trumped-up charges in retaliation for their activism or for making them the type of downfall to blame for the operations.” of the NPA.
âWe call on the government to allow Juanito Itaas to lead a peaceful life without threatening his safety because he deserves to make the most of every second of his life with his family. It will be the first time that they will be able to start a normal life together outside of prison bars.
He also said Itaas got married in the NBP and now has three children.
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