Unfair to say De Lima to blame for GCTA mess: Escudero

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 17 2019 09:45 AM | Updated as of Sep 17 2019 04:09 PM

MANILA - Former senator now Sorsogon Governor Francis Escudero on Tuesday said it is unfair to pin the blame on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) mess on Sen. Leila de Lima alone.

"It would be unfair to say the least because it was not only her that issued the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations), it was in conjunction with other stakeholders at that time," Escudero said in an interview on ANC's Headstart. 

Escudero was one of the authors of the GCTA law during his term as senator. He was the head of the justice committee when the law was passed in 2013. 

"If I remember correctly, they consulted members of the Senate and probably even the House at that time and the TWG (technical working group) of the Senate," he said.

Several senators said De Lima should be given the chance to explain her side on the GCTA law that allowed the early release of convicts.

The Office of the Ombudsman last week asked De Lima and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas to explain why the IRR did not specify the law's provision disqualifying recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes from benefiting from the law. 

De Lima has been detained since February 2017 after she was accused by convicted criminals of pocketing drug payoffs when she was still justice secretary during the previous administration. She denied the allegations.

The Senate is investigating the implementation of the GCTA policy, which has led to the release of some 2,000 heinous crime convicts.

Republic Act 10592, which expanded the GCTA given under the Revised Penal Code, was signed in 2013 under then President Benigno Aquino III and was meant to decongest prisons and give reformed inmates a new lease on life.

But senators heavily criticized the law’s IRR as these supposedly did not fully follow the law, which states that recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes should not benefit from the GCTA system.

Escudero noted the Supreme Court has had the occasion to decide on the particular law in the past.

"Senator De Lima, as justice secretary said that the new computation of the GCTA law ranging from 20 to 30 days per month would only be computed in favor of convicts after 2013. And then the Supreme Court said those before can benefit from it too," he said.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Monday signed the revised IRR of law granting increased good conduct time allowance.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said among the important revisions to the IRR is the clarification of prisoners who are disqualified by law from availing of the GCTA and other time allowances.