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‘Expanded good conduct law was Senate idea’

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star
âExpanded good conduct law was Senate ideaâ
“Our proposal was limited to counting preventive detention or imprisonment as part of an offender’s sentence if he is convicted. The bill on expanded GCTA came from senators,” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez told The STAR.
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MANILA, Philippines — The longer good conduct time allowance for convicts, which convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez wants to avail himself of so he can be freed early, was the idea of the Senate, one of the congressmen-authors of the GCTA law said yesterday.

“Our proposal was limited to counting preventive detention or imprisonment as part of an offender’s sentence if he is convicted. The bill on expanded GCTA came from senators,” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez told The STAR.

He was referring to House Bill 417 and Senate Bill 3064, which were introduced in the 15th Congress and consolidated to become Republic Act 10592 signed by then president Benigno Aquino III on May 29, 2013.

The STAR reviewed the history of the two measures and the law, and discovered that some senators who are fuming over the prospect of Sanchez walking out of New Bilibid Prison soon are among the law’s authors.

Rodriguez said that although the longer good behavior allowance was not part of their bill, he is in favor of it as he pointed out that “our justice system should be reformative, not retributive.”

“But those convicted of heinous crimes such as murder and rape, like Sanchez, the recidivists, escapees, and those who commit additional crimes while in prison, should not be qualified for GCTA. In fact, the law says so,” he added, noting that the victims of such convicts, other people and society in general would be exposed to danger if these offenders were freed early.

“All the authorities have to do is to strictly enforce the law, especially the disqualifications for good conduct time allowance,” Rodriguez said.

Aside from him, the authors of Bill 417 include then Aurora congressman and now Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, Marlyn Aggabas of Pangasinan, Victor Francisco Ortega of La Union, Eduardo Gullas of Cebu, and Giorgidi Aggabao of Isabela. 

Their bill was entitled, “An Act giving offenders the fullest benefit of preventive imprisonment, amending for the purpose Article 29 of Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code.”

It specifically provided that “recidivists, habitual delinquents and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage” of the proposed law.

Senate Bill 3064 was contained in Committee Report No. 82, which the committee on justice and human rights, and the committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws submitted on Nov. 17, 2011.

The Senate version consolidated eight similar measures on counting the period of detention as part of a prison term and expansion of GCTA as provided in the Revised Penal Code. 

The authors of the eight measures were then senators Manuel Villar Jr., Francis Escudero and Miriam Defensor Santiago.

Villar, Escudero, Santiago, and colleagues Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes IV, Franklin Drilon, Ramon Revilla Jr., Sergio Osmeña III, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino Pimentel III, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Panfilo Lacson, Manuel Lapid, Alan Peter Cayetano, the late Joker Arroyo and Edgardo Angara, Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona III and Vicente Sotto III signed Report No. 82. 

House Bill 417 was also fused into Senate Bill 3064.

The Senate version became the basis of RA 10592. In fact, they had the same title: “An Act amending Articles 29, 94, 97, 98, and 99 of Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code.”

Under Bill 3064 and the law, senators expanded good conduct allowance from five days to 20 days per month during the first two years of imprisonment, from eight days to 23 days from the third year to the fifth year, from 11 days to 25 days from the sixth year to the 10th year, and from 15 to 30 days during succeeding years.

There is an additional good behavior allowance of 15 days “for each month of study, teaching or mentoring service time rendered.”

In case of calamity or a catastrophe, and a prisoner “chose to stay in the place of his confinement,” he may apply for “special time allowance for loyalty” equivalent to “two-fifths of the period of his sentence.” 

A congressman, who did not want to be named, urged senators to review the GCTA law.

“They were so generous in giving all kinds of good conduct allowances. If all those GCTAs are given, a convict may end up walking out of prison a few days after walking in,” the lawmaker said.

He said under the present law, if a convict shows good behavior during the first two years of imprisonment, he is entitled to 20 days of deduction from his sentence.

“This means that he should be in prison for only 10-11 days each month. From the 11th year onwards, he is allowed 30 days in GCTA, which translates to no prison service or just one day in prison,” he stressed. 

Aside from Sanchez, more than 11,000 other convicts were reportedly entitled to GCTA.

Temporary suspension

Secretaries Eduardo Año of the interior and Menardo Guevarra of justice yesterday signed a joint department order to suspend the implementation of the GCTA for 10 days.

This would pave the way for a review by a joint committee of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Justice (DOJ) following criticism on the implementation of RA 10592. 

DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said the review would tackle both the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) and the uniform policy and guidelines on the computation of credits and allowances under the law. 

The joint committee is expected to determine if the policies currently being implemented are in line with the intent of Congress when the law was passed and if there are inconsistencies in the implementation. 

Processing and computation of time credits and allowances will also be suspended following the issuance of the joint department order. 

The 10-day review will give both departments time to revisit provisions in the IRR to either make adjustments within the guidelines or recommend possible amendments to Congress. 

“Hopefully, the joint committee will be able to make the necessary adjustments to the IRR, if needed, so that we do not have to go to Congress or to the Judiciary,” Malaya said in a statement. 

The joint committee, chaired by the DOJ and co-chaired by the DILG, will submit its report and the draft revised IRR and guidelines to the interior and justice secretaries within 10 working days. 

Yesterday, the women’s group Gabriela claimed that the camp of Sanchez was already preparing a party for the former mayor’s homecoming.

 Rep. Arlene Brosas told reporters in a briefing at the House of Representatives that a “personal source” said the release order for the former mayor was dated Aug. 20.

The town party, according to her, was to be sponsored by the municipal government. 

“We challenge BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) and DOJ to produce the release order. They should show it. Where there is smoke, there is fire,” she said in Filipino.

Rep. Alfred Vargas of Quezon City said this matter should be investigated thoroughly. “We should dig deeper into this report. If proven true, this bolsters everybody’s suspicion that certain quarters, ironically in government, are out to make Sanchez free.” 

 Rep. Jericho Nograles of party-list Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta also made the same pitch, stressing the need to clarify three major issues: the truth behind claims by the family of Sanchez that his release papers has already been signed and approved; that Sanchez was seen roaming freely outside the NBP; and the connection of Sanchez’s release to the killing of Ruperto Traya Jr., chief of the BuCor Inmate’s Document Processing Division.

“We need to know the existence of this document and who signed it. Too bad one of the people who can apparently shed light on this was murdered last Wednesday,” Nograles said, referring to Traya. – With Evelyn Macairan, Romina Cabrera, Delon Porcalla

GCTA LAW RUFUS RODRIGUEZ
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