Computing ‘good conduct’: How time served in prison is shortened based on behavior

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 23) — Reports about the possible release of a former Laguna town mayor who was behind the gruesome rape and killings of two college students sparked outrage among different sectors.

Former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez was reportedly among the 11,000 inmates who may benefit from Republic Act 10592, which increased the good conduct time allowance for prisoners.

Sanchez, along with six other individuals, was convicted in 1995 for the rape and murder case of University of the Philippines Los Baños students Mary Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. They were sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years of imprisonment. This would total to 280 years, but the law only allows a maximum prison time of 40 years.

READ: The heinous crimes of ex-Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who may soon be freed

RELATED: Early release ‘impossible’ for Antonio Sanchez – BuCor chief 

Sanchez's eligibility for the GCTA has been questioned, given the violations he committed inside the New Bilibid Prison. The convict's case also prompted Senators Tito Sotto and Franklin Drilon to seek investigation on how time allowance for prisoners is computed.

RELATED: Justice chief: ‘No truth’ to reports on ex-mayor Sanchez’ release

What is RA 10592?

The law was enacted by former President Benigno Aquino III, amending several parts of the Revised Penal Code. These include section 97, which tackles the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for prisoners who behaved while in detention.

RA 10592 at least doubled the previous GCTAs and expanded the time allowances to those who are under preventive imprisonment.

Under the policy, GCTAs are granted to prisoners based on the following measures:

- During the first two years of imprisonment: 20 days of deduction for each month of good behavior

- During the third to the fifth year: a reduction of 23 days for each month of good behavior

- During the following years until the 10th year: 25 days of deduction for each month of good behavior

- During the 11th and successive years: 30 days of deduction for each month of good behavior

- Another deduction of 15 days for each month of study, teaching or mentoring

The director of the Bureau of Corrections, the chief of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and/or the jail warden can grant a GCTA. It cannot be revoked once granted, according to the law.

In March 2014, then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas II jointly released the implementing rules and regulations for the policy, directing that it should be applied prospectively. This means that only those who were convicted during and after the time of the application of the law should be eligible for the expanded time allowances.

However, the Supreme Court in June 25 favored a petition by inmates of New Bilibid Prison calling for the retroactive application of the measure. This allowed those who were convicted from way back 1990, like Sanchez, to benefit from the GCTA.

The high court asserted that it did not order the release of Sanchez when it ruled for the retroactive application, saying it only interpreted the law.

SC public information office chief Brian Keith Hosaka said the decision was based on the “fundamental doctrine in criminal law that penal laws when favorable and advantageous to the accused should be applied retroactively.”

Who will benefit?

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said around 200 persons deprived of liberty may be released per day with the retroactive implementation of the law.

These include both high- and low-profile prisoners.

“Everyone imprisoned by final judgment before 2013 is entitled to a re-computation of GCTAs earned, if any,” Guevarra said. “Whether they are high-profile or low-profile, lahat sila makikinabang sa batas (all of them will benefit from the law).”

Are there exemptions?

There are, however, exemptions to the law.

“’Yung recidivists and those repeat offenders are excluded from the benefit of the law… So if he is found to have or to fall under that category, then he might be excluded from the benefit, he might be ineligible to avail of the benefits of the law,” Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon also said those who committed heinous crimes and/or violated the rules in detention are not eligible for the time allowances.

“If you engage in like trade of drugs or if you keep drugs in your cells, and you violate some prison rules. One of the 49 violations of prison rules is when you live luxuriously inside our facilities. So when you build your kubol and you live luxuriously inside your kubol, luxurious living is one of the violations,” Faeldon told The Source in a separate interview.