MANILA — The Supreme Court should decide on whether or not heinous crime convicts should be returned to prison over questions on the legality of their release due to good conduct credits, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday.
A total of 1,914 heinous crime convicts have walked free since 2014 under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law, which recently came under fire following reports that it may benefit Antonio Sanchez, a former Laguna mayor found guilty in a 1990s rape and murder case that was among the most followed in the country.
The law states that "all good conduct time allowances already granted cannot be revoked," Guevarra noted during a Senate inquiry into GCTA's implementation.
If the Bureau of Corrections wrongly interpreted the law to cover heinous crime convicts, one side might argue that "they acted on good faith" and that release orders should not be nullified, while another view would be that government is "not bound by the mistakes of its own officers" and convicts should return to prison, he said.
"These are very complicated issues and may require much deeper study. I would rather that a person with interest in a situation like this bring up the matter to the Supreme Court, who will have the final authority to make a ruling," Guevarra told lawmakers.
"Rights of people are involved here, not only the rights of the families of the victims, but also the rights of the families of those convicted. We're trying to strike a balance in the rights of all people affected," he added.
The justice department, he said, came up with a preliminary opinion on the matter, but it "is not binding on anyone," unlike a Supreme Court ruling.
Watch the inquiry here: