Repeal of law expanding time allowances sought

    181

    SENATE President Vicente Sotto III and two colleagues are seeking the repeal of the controversial 2013 law that expanded the time allowances which may reduce the period of prisoners’ service of sentences.

    Sotto, justice committee chair Sen. Richard Gordon, and national defense committee chair Sen. Panfilo Lacson filed Senate Bill No. 993 on Monday, during the height of an inquiry into the case of former Calauan, Laguna, mayor Antonio Sanchez.

    Repealing Republic Act No. 10592 meant the less favorable computation of time allowances under the 89-year old Revised Penal Code (RPC) would be reinstated.

    The 2013 law granted greater credits to prisoners who exhibit good conduct.

    For the first two years of imprisonment, they could reduce their sentences by 20 days for each month of good behavior, instead of the five days granted under the RPC.

    For the third to the fifth years, the reduction could be 23 days for each month of good behavior. The reductions could be 25 days for each month during the sixth to 10th years, and 30 days during the 11th year onwards.

    These were more favorable than the RPC’s provision for a reduction of eight days, 10 days, and 15 days, depending on the length of stay in prison.

    RA 10592 is also more favorable to prisoners because the GCTA could be applied even to the time of preventive imprisonment which the inmate served pending trial and prior to conviction.

    The 2013 law also allowed four-fifths of the time of preventive imprisonment to be credited in favor of detainees undergoing trial, even if they do not agree to abide by disciplinary rules imposed on convicts.

    The RPC did not provide for such a credit, unless the detainees undergoing trial agree to follow the rules for convicts.

    The 2013 law also introduced a new incentive not found in the RPC: a 15-day time allowance for each month of study, teaching or mentoring service time.

    In seeking to repeal the favorable treatment of inmates, Sotto, Gordon and Lacson argued that “no question of proper implementation” had hounded the RPC.

    “The provision on GCTA has been in effect since the 1930s and it has not raised this kind of concern from the people and the government,” read the explanatory note.

    The three senators argued the 2013 law “caused an absurd interpretation, and its very provisions needed harmonization.”

    “Furthermore, it has been subject to abuse by the persons allowed by law to grant time allowances,” they said.

    Although the law was intended to decongest prisons, the senators argued that “it may give more logical reason to abandon such purpose if the magnitudes of its aftermath are prejudicial for many of the victims and their relatives who are seeking justice.”

    Sanchez and his six henchmen were sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1995 for the rape and murder of a University of the Philippines-Los Baños student and the murder of her companion in 1993.

    Questions arose as to why someone guilty of heinous crimes and had documented violations of prison rules⁠— including possession of illegal drugs, with contraband hidden away in a statue of the Virgin Mary at one point — was found eligible for good conduct time allowances.

    Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara and majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, in Senate Bills No. 995 and 998, sought to exclude convicts of heinous crimes or recidivists from those qualified for the incentive. But, they simply introduced amendments to plug the loopholes in RA 10592 and did not see the need to repeal it entirely.

    PANELO BLAMES IRR

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for RA 10592 — crafted by former justice secretary and currently detained Sen. Leila de Lima and former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II — is to blame for the controversy hounding the GCTA implementation, together with the ambiguity of the law.

    “I think what made it messy is that… former Secretary of Justice now detained Leila de Lima issued and crafted a reso — implementing rules and regulations — together with the DILG Secretary Roxas, placing those convicted of heinous crimes as covered by Republic Act 10592. I think that started the whole thing,” he said.

    “Cleary, the law and its IRR were prepared not by the officials of this administration but by the previous one. The practice of granting GCTA to those convicted of heinous crimes has also been existent years before PRRD (Duterte) assumed his presidential seat,” he said.

    Panelo said he was not even aware that there is a GCTA law until the issue concerning the possible release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez, former mayor of Calauan in Laguna his former client, broke out.

    Panelo said there was also an increase in the number of those purported to be eligible for the GCTA because of a recent ruling by the Supreme Court that allowed the retroactive implementation of RA No. 10592.

    He said it is unfair to blame the Duterte for the release of some convicts, who may not be qualified for GCTA, since the Office of the President had no say on who would be released under the law.

    He said the actual computation of GCTA does not even pass through the Department of Justice, which means it would not even reach the Office of the President.

    Panelo also said that the grant of GCTA is not a form of executive clemency which is granted by Office of the President.

    “The buck in this case stops with the Bureau of Corrections,” he said.

    De Lima said her colleagues in Congress should not blame RA 10592 or the Expanded GCTA Law but determine whether its implementing rules are being followed.

    She said good conduct “is not mere ‘passive’ good conduct or absence of bad behavior in the sense that the PDL (persons deprived of liberty) has not violated any prison rule.”

    She said good conduct “contemplates active or pro-active good conduct exemplified by active involvement in rehabilitation programs and authorized activities and exemplary works.”

    De Lima, in a statement from the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, also said the IRR “stressed that in all instances, the detained or convicted prisoner must faithfully obey all prison/jail rules and regulations.”