Heinous crimes convicts now excluded from GCTA coverage

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    REVISED rules on the law on good conduct time allowance (GCTA) now exclude convicts of heinous crimes from coverage, the justice department said yesterday.

    Another change, said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, is that “while good conduct is assessed monthly, prisoners will be granted conduct allowance only on the 2nd, 5th, 10th, and 11th years of their detention so that the general conduct of the inmate will be taken into account.”

    “We wanted the GCTA law to encourage sustained behavior so that prisoners cannot have an on and off good behavior and still avail of monthly good conduct allowance,” he said.

    Guevarra and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday signed the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for Republic Act No. 10592 which allows the early release of convicts.

    RA 10592 was passed in 2013. Its IRR was passed in 2015, benefiting at least 11,000 convicts, including those of heinous crimes like rape and murder convict Antonio Sanchez, former mayor of Calauan town in Laguna. Sanchez’ supposed impending release last month caused public outcry and triggered a Senate inquiry which has so far uncovered several anomalies in the release of prisoners, including the “GCTA for sale” scheme.

    Sanchez is serving seven life terms at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City for the 1993 rape and killings of UPLB students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez.

    “Among the important provisions of the revised IRR is the clarification of prisoners disqualified from law to avail themselves of the GCTA and other time allowances. Those detained prior to the passage of RA 10592 will receive lesser GCTA under the Revised Penal Code while those convicted after RA 10592 was passed and are not qualified will not get the good conduct allowance because the disqualification under the said law will not apply retroactively,” Guevarra said in a briefing after he and Año signed the revised IRR.

    “Prisoners who are disqualified, who were detained before the GCTA Law can still avail of lesser GCTA under Revised Penal Code, but if you are a disqualified prisoner detained after the law, you cannot avail of any GCTA,” he added.

    Excluded from the GCTA beneficiaries are those charged and convicted of heinous crimes, habitual delinquents, escapists, and recidivists.

    Guevarra said the revised IRR also adopts the list of heinous crimes under Republic Act 7659 (death penalty law) and based on previous Supreme Court jurisprudence.

    RA 7659 lists the following crimes punishable with capital punishment before it was abolished in 2006 namely: treason, piracy, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with violence, destructive arson, rape, plunder, some drug-related offenses, and carnapping with rape or homicide.

    Likewise, Guevarra said they have also set guidelines for the Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee (MSEC), including provisions of transparency, such as posting on the website the names of prisoners to be granted good conduct allowance.

    Guevarra and Año extended the work of the DOJ-DILG joint review committee on GCTA by 60 days to give it more time to work on the guidelines for the implementation of said law.

    The joint committee completed its work on the revised IRR last September 12.

    600 SURRENDERERS

    At least 600 inmates convicted of heinous crimes and prematurely released through the GCTA are back in the custody of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) as of yesterday morning, said Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete.

    Perete said the DOJ expects more to surrender in the coming days as the September 19 deadline for them to give up to the authorities nears.

    President Duterte has given the heinous crime inmates released through the GCTA 15 days to turn themselves or else they will be treated as fugitives.

    Initially, the BuCor said 1,914 inmates convicted of heinous crimes were released on the basis of the GCTA but it revised the numbers when it submitted an updated list to the Senate. The updated list showed that 2,160 inmates convicted of heinous crimes have been granted early release, majority of whom committed rape (939) followed by murder with 874 and 261 for drug-related offenses.

    The PNP said 435 GCTA-released convicts have surrendered to police stations as of 6 a.m. yesterday, with 253 of them turned over to the BuCor.

    PNP chief Oscar Albayalde earlier said the PNP does not need warrants of arrest to recapture the convicts because their release is considered void from the start.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo reminded the GCTA-freed convicts to surrender or be treated as fugitives.

    “As the President said when the 15-day deadline lapses then they will be deemed to be fugitives from justice and they can be arrested,” he said.

    The Senate inquiry is scheduled to resume it inquiry in Thursday, with former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre among those invited.

    The appearance of detained Sen. Leila de Lima is being worked out, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

    Government is blaming De Lima, former justice secretary who drafted the 2015 IRR together with former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, for the confusion in the implementation of the GCTA.

    Lacson said he would recommend that De Lima be allowed to appear. But, he said the committee was still discussing how it would be done, because the arch critic of President Duterte is currently detained pending trial for her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prisons.

    “Siya nagre-request na kung pwede marinig din siya (She requested if she could be heard too). I am in full agreement. The committee will have to work out the mechanics how to go about hearing the side of Sen. Leila de Lima,” he said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Vince Nonato