SolGen asks SC to junk petition vs. new GCTA rules

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 8) — The Office of the Solicitor General has urged the Supreme Court to junk a legal challenge to the new guidelines of the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance law, which disqualifies heinous crime convicts from getting shorter jail time based on good behavior.

"The public respondents respectfully pray that the petition be denied due course and dismissed for lack of merit," the OSG, representing the Department of Justice (DOJ), said in a comment filed October 29. A copy of the document was obtained by CNN Philippines on Friday.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said there are seven consolidated petitions against the new Implementing Rules and Regulations of the GCTA. He refused to comment on the issue pending a decision from the high court.

A group of New Bilibid Prison inmates in September filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition in a bid to invalidate the IRR issued by the government that month. They accused the DOJ, and Interior and Local Government of "grave abuse of discretion" in issuing the guidelines, saying it was beyond their jurisdiction to do so.

They said the DILG and DOJ went "beyond the law, for being tantamount to executive legislation, and for being in violation of the equal protection clause under the Constitution."

Aside from exempting heinous crime convicts from benefiting from good conduct time allowances, the new rules also bar recidivists, habitual delinquents, and escapists from all kinds of time allowances.

The OSG assailed the inmates' petition on technical matters, saying the writs of certiorari and prohibition are not the proper legal remedy.

"The DOJ did not act in any judicial, quasi-judicial, or ministerial capacity when it issued the assailed 2019 IRR of RA No. 10592," the OSG said.

It added that the petitioners' failure to exhaust administrative remedies before going to the Supreme Court was "fatal."

The Supreme Court in June favored an earlier petition by Bilibid inmates for the retroactive application of the expanded law enacted by then President Benigno Aquino III in 2013. The move allowed those who were convicted from way back 1990 to benefit from good conduct time allowances.

This paved the way for talks that former Mayor Antonio Sanchez of Calauan, Laguna, could be granted early release despite being convicted of rape and murder. Public outrage prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to order the return to jail of all heinous crime convicts freed since the implementation of the expanded GCTA law in 2013. More than 2,000 previously released inmates surrendered – some of them were found to be entitled for release on valid grounds, while majority remain in prison.

One of them is petitioner Narciso Guinto, convicted as an accomplice for murder, but discharged in April on GCTA credits. He surrendered to the police following Duterte's order and was detained in Bilibid. Guinto said he filed the case "on behalf of all other persons who were given certificates of discharge from prison, who are being asked to surrender, many of whom e are already detained without any judicial warrant or order."