Amid the controversies surrounding the GCTA for sale, it is the convicts who deserved liberty due to good conduct who are affected by the corrupt implementation of the law, said Rommel Abitria, executive director of the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation Inc.
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Shoot-to-kill order dashes convict’s 2nd chance
Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - September 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A 60-year-old convict in Malabon City who has served over two decades for robbery homicide and was released on good conduct time allowance (GCTA) had been monitoring the news when he learned about President Duterte’s order for them to surrender or be declared fugitives.

He had been released last April and had even surprised his relatives at their house upon his freedom on good conduct. Since then, he had been helping fix the house, cementing the pavement and looking after their pets.

His worst fears happened last Monday, when just after five months of freedom, police officers knocked on their door and asked for him to surrender and was left with no choice.

“What can I do, that’s the order of the President?” the man’s niece quoted him as saying upon realizing that his chance for reform was quickly dashed by the President’s order.

According to the niece, who requested anonymity, her uncle was saddened that his next plans for fixing the house after serving decades in prison was suddenly cut short by a police visit for him to surrender.

“He said, ‘there were only a few who surrendered, am I included? But that’s what the President said, what else can I do?’” the niece said. “He was sad, to be honest. He was released, he got his life back, then this happened. He had been a great help in the house.”

Amid the controversies surrounding the GCTA for sale, it is the convicts who deserved liberty due to good conduct who are affected by the corrupt implementation of the law, said Rommel Abitria, executive director of the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation Inc.

“We have to understand the context of the GTCA within the discourse of rehabilitation,” the lawyer, whose foundation has assisted inmates, told The STAR.

Abitria said the return of convicts based on the President’s orders instead of a court order was not in accordance with the due process of law.

“It is stated in the law that you cannot remove a convict’s good conduct time allowance once it is granted. What will be the legal basis for their return? It is highly suspect to deprive a person of liberty based on a verbal order. Why do we keep on resorting to shortcuts?” Abitria said.

Even the suspension of the law is a violation because the GCTA law clearly states that its non-implementation is punishable, he added.

“Do we want to rehabilitate convicts, or do we just resort to knee-jerk reactions because of the corruption allegations? The GCTA may not be a perfect law, but we recommend to just make transparent the process of giving GCTA. The problem is there are different interpretations of the law that is now being politicized,” Abitria said.

Removing the grant of GCTA would only prove disastrous for jail managers because convicts would then lose the motive to change their ways while inside prison.

“For a detainee, why would he or she still follow the rules if there will be no incentives? The effect of this is not just on the individual but on the justice system as a whole,” Abitria added.

For convicts released due to good conduct like the elderly man in Malabon, it looks like there would no longer be second chances.

For the elderly man, he is left with the worst choice for convicts given a second chance: a quick death sentence.

GOOD CONDUCT TIME ALLOWANCE ROMMEL ABITRIA
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