LAWYERS of a group of convicts who are serving time for heinous crimes have filed a petition with the Supreme Court questioning the new Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law issued by the Department of Justice.
The prisoners – eight in all – have been incarcerated in the New Bilibid Prison for more than 20 years and at first blush seemed included in the beneficiaries of Republic Act 10592 that was enacted in May 2013.
Because of the patent breach of even regular rules and procedures in running a prison, officials and low-ranking employees of the Bureau of Corrections have benefitted from a corrupt and sloppy implementation of that law.
Money and influence have countermanded every rule inside the national prisons.
Thus, influential Chinese drug lords were accorded VIP treatment in jail, several of whom were released early because of a flawed interpretation and computation of the time allowance.
All these abruptly stopped when convicted rapist-murdered Antonio Sanchez was almost released if not for the vigilance of media and the public. A series of Senate investigations unearthed more shenanigans inside the prisons, including the entry of contrabands like cellphones and cash used by the drug lords to continue their nefarious trade even behind bar.
Initial results of the Senate hearings and the concomitant barrage of public indignation, in all media and in the streets, resulted in the firing of Bucor chief Nicanor Faeldon and his subordinates.
The prisoners’ class suit challenged the DOJ’s revised implementation rules for the law issued on Sept. 16 because these disqualify convicts of heinous crimes as well as recidivists, habitual delinquents, and escapees from earning deductions from their sentences.
The lawyers claimed that the new rules goes beyond the law and are “tantamount to executive legislation” as they violate the Revised Penal Code and the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he welcomed the filing of such a petition so the law could be clarified. He said, “Considering that some important provisions of RA 10592 have been interpreted differently by various groups, I have as much interest as anyone in knowing the correct legal interpretation. Only the Supreme Court has the final word on the issue and I hope that it will affirm mine.”
We felt early on that this issue will reach the Supreme Court, which now has responsibility to come up with a decision as quickly as possible.