Despite revision of GCTA rules, Sanchez can still earn good conduct allowances

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — The Justice and Interior departments have revised the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law to disqualify heinous crime convicts from earning GCTA credits, but convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez can still be freed through GCTA.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday that only prisoners convicted of heinous crimes after the enactment of the expanded GCTA law, or Republic Act 10592, would be disqualified from benefitting from all kinds of time allowances.

Guevarra said inmates charged with heinous crimes who were under preventive imprisonment or were found guilty before the law’s enactment on May 29, 2013, like Sanchez who was convicted in 1995, are still qualified for lower GCTA credits originally provided by the Revised Penal Code.

This means that convicts like Sanchez would get GCTA credits as follows:

- A deduction of five days from their sentences for each month of good behavior during the first two years of their imprisonment

- A deduction of eight days from their sentences for each month of good behavior from the third to fifth year of their imprisonment

- A deduction of 10 days from their sentences for each month of good behavior from the sixth to 10th year of their imprisonment

- A deduction of 15 days from their sentences for each month of good behavior from the 11th and succeeding years of their imprisonment

In contrast, the expanded GCTA law more than doubled the time allowances granted to convicts for good behavior.

"We cannot make this ... GCTA law applicable retroactively ... Hindi pupwede 'yun because that would be to their disadvantage na wala pa naman 'yung batas na 'yan. Hindi pa naman sila disqualified ngayon, and then sasabihin natin ngayon na disqualified," Guevarra said.

[Translation: We cannot make this ... GCTA law applicable retroactively ... That's not allowed becuase that would be to their disadvantage when that wasn't in the law before. They weren't disqualified before, and then we'll now say that they are disqualified.]

Aside from heinous crime convicts, the new IRR of the expanded GCTA law also disqualified recidivists, habitual delinquents and escapees from availing all time allowances, which include shaving the time they spent in preventive detention from their sentences, time allowances for teaching and mentoring, and for staying in jail during calamities, even if they could have escaped.

The new rules also specified what heinous crimes are. Guevarra said these include those listed under the death penalty law and in Supreme Court decisions.

This is consistent with the government’s position that these prisoners are not entitled to GCTA, even if the expanded law states that “any prisoner” is eligible.

The expanded GCTA law only bars heinous crime convicts, recidivists, habitual delinquents and escapees from deducting the time they spent in preventive detention from their sentences.

The new IRR also made clear that while GCTA credits will be computed on a monthly basis, it would only be implemented during the second, fifth, 10th and 11th year of a prisoners’ imprisonment, Guevarra said.

The Justice department and civil society organizations would also be participating in the deliberations for the grant of GCTAs to convicts.

The new GCTA rules also require the posting of a list of inmates who may qualify for the policy on the website of the prisons bureau.

“From here on, there will be no confusion and we'll follow exactly what the Congress intended to do, notwithstanding the many ambiguities in that particular law,” Guevarra said of the new IRR.

The joint panel from the Justice and Interior departments, which drafted the new IRR, is now given 60 more days to review and revise the Uniform Manual on Time Allowances to harmonize it with the new GCTA rules.

Even without the manual, Guevarra said processing of new GCTA applications may resume.

“To the extent that we can implement without having to come up with a very detailed operations manual, we will start processing. But if we find it difficult without the Uniform Manual to actually start processing, then we might have to defer it,” he said.

Among the things that the joint committee will spell out in the new manual would be offenses which would disqualify inmates for GCTA.

The expanded GCTA law first came under scrutiny after reports of the possible early release of Sanchez sparked controversy. His family said he was due for release last August 20, according to a release order signed by now-sacked Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon.

However, an investigation into the controversy included allegations that GCTA credits are being sold by BuCor officials to relatives of prisoners and other accusations of corruption against prison officials.

After the Sanchez issue erupted, the government stopped the processing of new GCTA applications and ordered 1,914 heinous crime convicts previously released through the policy to surrender in 15 days or be treated “like fugitives.”

As of today, 612 of these convicts have surrendered and are in BuCor’s custody.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.