Inmates question revised GCTA rules

    200

    EIGHT inmates of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City have filed a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the controversial good conduct time allowance under Republic Act 10592 which amended the Revised Penal Code.

    The petitioners are asking the tribunal to direct the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to refrain from retroactively applying exclusions introduced in the revised IRR, including convicts of heinous crimes.

    Most of the petitioners, who have been in the national penitentiary since the 1990s, are serving time for rape and murder, which are considered heinous crimes.

    The revised IRR was drafted and approved by a joint committee of the justice and interior departments and released on September 16, amid controversy generated by the release of heinous crime convicts for good conduct under RA 10592.

    The 40-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, filed on September 24, is the first to challenge the legality of the revised IRR.

    It was filed by inmates Russel A. Fuensalida, Toshing Yiu, Benjamin D. Galvez, Cerilo C. Obnimaga, Urbano D. Mison, Roland A. Gamba, Pablo Z. Panaga, and Rommel T. Deang, who are represented by the Abing Nicanor Jimeno & Associates Law Office.

    Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra welcomed the petition but said it is the Office of the Solicitor General which will submit a comment on behalf of the justice and interior departments.

    “Considering that some important provisions of Republic Act 10502 have been interpreted differently by various groups, I have as much interest as anyone in knowing the correct legal interpretation. And only the Supreme Court has the final word on the issue and I hope that it will affirm mine,” he said.

    The petitioners said the respondents — Guevarra, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, and BJMP chief Allan Sullano Iral — committed “grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction” when they issued the revised IRR.

    BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag, who was appointed by President Duterte to replace sacked BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon, was included as a respondent.

    The petitioners said the revised IRR went beyond the law it seeks to implement.

    “The revised IRR violates the rule against prospective application under Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code, and that the law itself, Republic Act 10592, contains provisions which, if applied retroactively, will violate the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto law,” they said.

    They said the provisions of the IRR are disadvantageous to any inmate.

    “The exclusions of certain detainees under Section 1 and 3 of RA 10592 regarding the crediting of preventive imprisonment, as reechoed in Section 3, Rule III and Section 1, Rule IV of the 2019 revised IRR are being retroactively applied in violation of the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto law,” they said.

    Section 1 of RA 10592 excluded from the benefits those inmates who are recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and those charged with heinous crimes. Those excluded are likewise deprived of the benefit of the GCTA for the time they were preventively imprisoned.

    Under the revised IRR, those excluded are recidivists; an accused who has been convicted previously twice or more times of any crime; an accused who, upon being summoned for the execution of his sentence, failed to surrender voluntarily; habitual delinquents; escapees; and those charged with heinous crimes.

    CHANGE OF COMMAND

    Bantag vowed to rid the agency of misfits and personnel involved in illegal activities, including in illegal drugs trade.

    Bantag made the vow during the change-of-command ceremony at the BuCor headquarters where he said he accepted the challenge to head the agency amid the controversy and negative publicity generated by the premature release of heinous crime convicts and the discovery of wrongdoing involving BuCor personnel, including the “hospital pass for sale scheme” and prostitution inside the NBP.

    He said he considered his appointment as BuCor chief as an opportunity to cleanse the ranks of the agency of corrupt officials and personnel and put an end to illegal activities not only in the national penitentiary but in other prison colonies supervised and managed by the BuCor.

    He recalled the statement of retired PNP-CIDG chief and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong that “all roads lead to the BuCor” when it comes to the narcotics trade.

    Guevarra has directed Bantag to clean up the mess generated by the premature release of heinous crimes convicts.

    Bantag replaced Nicanor Faeldon who was sacked by President Duterte on September 4 for disobeying his order to stop the release of inmates due to the GCTA.

    The BuCor is an attached agency of the justice department.