(Guards escort convict Rolito Go inside the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa in August 2012 after he went missing.)
MANILA (UPDATED) - Murder convict Rolito Go will be spending Christmas this year outside of prison.
This, as the Supreme Court (SC) ordered his immediate release, junking a Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) appeal for a reversal of two lower court rulings granting Go's writ of habeas corpus petition.
In a seven-page resolution, dated November 28, 2016 but released to the media only on Friday, the high court's Third Division affirmed previous rulings by the Court of Appeals (CA) and Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) in favor of a petition for habeas corpus filed by Go and his wife Elsa in 2014.
In a letter addressed to the BuCor, Justice Presbitero Velasco, chair of the Supreme Court’s 3rd division, also reiterated a previous order for the immediate release of Go, “unless he is detained for any lawful cause.”
Go filed the habeas corpus plea on January 30, 2014, in view of the BuCor's grant of colonist status on July 30, 2008 and accumulated good conduct time allowance (GCTA), which rendered his reclusion perpetua sentence fully served on August 21, 2013.
Go argued that based on the BuCor Manual, a colonist status grants "automatic reduction of life sentence imposed on the colonist to a sentence of thirty years."
The BuCor, in challenging Go's release, argued that the CA committed a "reversible error" because there was no prior approval from the President.
The SC, however, ruled that while only the President can commute a prison sentence, the Revised Penal Code (RPC), specifically Articles 70 and 97, recognizes partial reduction or commutation of sentence by providing that 'for penalties, the duration shall be computed for 30 years and the allowances of good conduct must be applied on top of the [GCTA] accorded to an inmate with a colonist status.'"
The SC also pointed out that that BuCor has the power to grant GCTA.
The high court's release order also honored Go's preventive suspension of 9 months and 16 days.
"The intent and spirit of the law in affording persons the remedy of writ of habeas corpus is to devise a speedy and effective means to relieve persons from unlawful restraint. To rule otherwise would render Article 99 of the RPC as a mere surplusage and would unduly impose excessive imprisonment on inmates in violation of the basic right to liberty," the SC resolution read.
Go, a construction magnate, was convicted for shooting De La Salle University student Eldon Maguan in the head during an infamous road rage incident in 1991.
He was sentenced to 40 years in prison by a San Juan court in 1993. He escaped from prison after his conviction, and evaded police until he was caught in 1996.
In 2011, he left the NBP without permission, and was put back in prison after a media expose. A year later, he again went missing and was eventually recaptured by authorities.
In a statement relayed to ABS-CBN News, Go, who is on continuous treatment for stage 4 colon cancer, expressed gratitude for his release and said he is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his family. He also apologized to Maguan's family, especially Maguan's parents.
"Ako po ay masayang masaya. Salamat sa Diyos. 2013 dapat laya na ako. Masayang masaya ako at makakasama ko na pamilya ko," he said.
(I am very happy. Thank God. I should have been free since 2013. I am very happy that I can now be with my family.)
"Sana maunawaan nila (Maguan family) yung nangyari sa akin, yung sitwasyon na nangyari sa anak nila hindi intensyon na mangyari, aksidente yan," Go said.
(I hope they understand. What happened to me, what happened to their son was not intentional. It was an accident.)
BuCor Deputy Director General Rolando Asuncion said the bureau already received an official copy of the SC's release order.
Asuncion said Go will be released immediately, as soon as he returns from confinement at a hospital.