8 Bilibid inmates question revised GCTA rules before SC

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2019 09:33 AM | Updated as of Sep 30 2019 03:29 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) – Eight inmates from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) have filed the first petition before the Supreme Court questioning the validity of the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10592 or the expanded good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law.

Inmates Russel Fuensalida, Toshing Yiu, Benjamin Galvez, Cerilo Obnimaga, Urbano Mison, Roland Gamba, Pablo Panaga and Rommel Deang filed a petition assailing the legality and constitutionality of certain provisions of the revised IRR on September 24.

Among these provisions are sections excluding recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) charged or convicted of heinous crimes from the benefit of GCTA, time allowance for study, teaching and mentoring (TASTM), and special time allowance for loyalty (STAL).

These provisions, the inmates argued, go “beyond the law” and are “tantamount to executive legislation” because these exclusions were not on the text of the law itself.

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They also question the retroactive application of exclusions to credit for preventive imprisonment. The IRR excluded recidivists, accused who have been previously convicted twice or more times of any crime, accused who failed to surrender voluntarily before a court of law upon being summoned for execution of sentence, habitual delinquents, escapees and PDLs charged of heinous crimes from being granted any time allowance credits while awaiting their sentence.

The inmates also want to declare void the transitory provisions creating a distinction between those who have been detained or started serving their sentence before and those after the effectivity of RA 10592 as violative of the equal protection clause and the provision of the Revised Penal Code mandating retroactive application of a penal law if favorable to the accused.

Under the IRR, a disqualified PDL who has been detained or has started serving his sentence before RA 10592 took effect can still enjoy the GCTA granted not under the new law but under the Revised Penal Code (RPC) while those detained or sentenced after will no longer gain any time allowance credits whether under the RPC or the new law.

They also asked the BuCor and BJMP to recompute their GCTA and order their immediate release from prison.

Named as respondents were Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Bureau of Corrections Director General Gerald Bantag and Bureau of Jail Managaement and Penology chief Allan Sullano Iral.

The BuCor and the DOJ were forced to abandon their old interpretation of the expanded GCTA law which did not exclude heinous crime convicts from the grant of time allowances following public uproar over the possible release of convicted rapist and murderer former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

“Regrettably, all these public outrage and media attention have contributed to the actions undertaken by herein respondents. Ultimately, herein petitioners and those who are similarly situated are the ones who are suffering and are continuing to suffer,” petitioners said.

“Unless these issues befitting our country are clarified by judicial pronouncement of no less than the Supreme Court, they shall continue to suffer from it,” they added, justifying their direct resort to the high court by characterizing the issue as a matter of “transcendental importance involving paramount public interest.”

The revised IRR takes effect this week.

Guevarra, in a statement, said he has "eagerly awaited" the filing of the petition.

"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," he said. 

"Only the supreme court has the final word on the issue and I hope that it will affirm mine."