New rules on good conduct law disqualify heinous crime convicts

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — The draft of the new implementing rules and regulations of the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance law disqualifies heinous crime convicts from obtaining allowances for good behavior, reflecting the government’s position on the controversial policy.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters Thursday that the draft IRR submitted to him on the same day also bars recidivists, escapees and habitual delinquents from obtaining good conduct credits.

“It has been misapplied since the time it was enacted. Implementing rules and regulations were issued, but the interpretation given to the law itself appears to be erroneous,” Guevarra said.

Scrutiny of the expanded GCTA law has shifted from the measure to its implementing rules, first adopted by then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and then Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

The Office of the Ombudsman has asked De Lima and Roxas to explain why they failed to include the same disqualifications enumerated in the expanded law, which more than doubled the allowances for inmates' good conduct.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires, in his letters to De Lima and Roxas, pointed out that Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code mentions the disqualifications to GCTA.

However, that provision, as amended by the GCTA law, only pertains to deducting the time spent in preventive detention from the term of imprisonment. Prisoners who are recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes are not entitled to that specific deduction.

The expanded GCTA law actually provides that “any convicted prisoner in any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center or any other local jail” are entitled to allowances.

But Guevarra said lawmakers have recognized that the law “was kinda poorly drafted.”

“Their intention was not fully reflected in the law. There were gaps there,” he said.

Lawmakers have pushed for an amendment to the expanded GCTA law so heinous crime convicts would be barred from the grant of allowances.

The law first came under scrutiny after reports warned of the impending release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez through the policy.

Bureau of Corrections data show that 1,914 heinous crime convicts have been released since the law took effect in 2014.

Duterte gave them 15 days to surrender and so far, 299 have turned themselves in on the eighth day of this ultimatum.

CNN Philippines’ Xave Gregorio and Gerg Cahiles, and Dumaguete City-based journalist Roy Bustillo contributed to this report.