By Ma. Sophia Claudine S. Apuada, Stephanie Anne C. Be, Christien Derrick R. Chin and Ralph Jem D. Tabangcora
Time and again, the judiciary, specifically the Supreme Court is again confronted with a primary issue on whether or not there has been a misapplication and misinterpretation of law.
This study originates from the very controversial rape-slay case of then Calauan City Mayor Antonio L. Sanchez and his alleged status as an intended beneficiary of the Republic Act 10592, also known as the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law (GCTA Law). Following the public outcry, the Senate has made its move to investigate this matter and found out that the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the said law has been enforced in such a manner that even a convicted person due to a heinous crime committed, can validly avail of the GCTA Law. It was further found out that there has been alleged incidents of Good Conduct Time Allowance being sold at Bureau of Corrections. Subsequently, the present administration through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) revised the IRR of the GCTA Law, expressly stating that persons convicted of heinous crimes, among other classes, cannot validly avail of GCTA. This revised IRR is set to be implemented in November 2019, thus open to challenge before the court.
This study aims to discuss the prevailing legal doctrines and available jurisprudence relevant to understand this issue and to discuss and analyze the usage or application of these legal doctrines and jurisprudence to determine whether the IRR of the GCTA Law is consistent with the very law it seeks to implement.
Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this study aim:
1. To determine and establish the legislative intent of the GCTA Law.
2. To determine the compliance of the old and revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the GCTA Law to the law itself.
3.To determine how the law has been enforced since its effectivity on the basis of its Implementing Rules and Regulations and relevant decided cases.
Definition of Terms
a. BJMP- Bureau of Jail Management and Penology;
b. BUCOR- Bureau of Corrections;
c. Chief- the Chief of the BJMP;
d. Correctional Facility- a jail or prison where a PDL is committed by order of a court of law or any other competent authority;
e. Credit for Preventive Imprisonment (CPI)- time credited for the temporary confinement before final judgment of a PDL in a correctional facility;
f. Detainee- a PDL who is under preventive imprisonment or temporarily confined in jail or prison while undergoing investigation by competent authority, on trial before a court of law, or awaiting final judgment;
g. Director General- the Director General of the BUCOR;
h. Escapee- a PDL who has escaped from confinement in a correctional facility;
i. Good Conduct- refers to the conspicuous and satisfactory behavior of a detention or convicted PDL consisting of, among others, active involvement in development or rehabilitation programs, productive participation in authorized work activities or accomplishment of exemplary deeds coupled with faithful obedience to all prison/jail rules and regulations, including the non-commission, or non-participation in the commission, of any crime or offense during the period of imprisonment;
j. Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA)- a grant accorded a PDL in Good Conduct entitling him to deductions from the possible maximum imposable imprisonment or period of sentence;
k. Habitual Delinquent- a person who, within a period of ten (10) years from the date of release from prison or last conviction of the crimes of serious physical injuries, robbery, theft, estafa, and falsification, is found guilty of any of the said crimes a third time or oftener;
l. Heinous Crimes- crimes which are grievous, odious and hateful to the senses and which, by reason of their inherent and or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and perversity are repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society, including crimes which are mandatorily punishable by Death under the provisions of RA No. 7659, as amended, otherwise known as the Death Penalty Law, and those crimes specifically declared as such by the Supreme Court;
m. Jail- a detention or correctional facility managed by the BJMP, any law enforcement agency, or the provincial government mandated by law to safekeep, develop and rehabilitate a PDL who is under preventive imprisonment or who is sentenced to not more than three (3) years of imprisonment by order of a court of law or competent authority;
n. Person Deprived of Liberty- a person confined in a correctional facility, whether undergoing preventive imprisonment or serving sentence by reason of a final judgment of conviction;
o. Preventive Imprisonment- a temporary confinement in a correctional facility of a PDL, while undergoing investigation or awaiting final judgment;
p. Prison- any correctional facility managed by the BUCOR to safekeep and rehabilitate a PDL, undergoing preventive imprisonment, or convicted of final judgment, whose sentence exceeds three (3) years, or who is sentenced to serve two (2) or more prison terms, the aggregate of which exceeds three (3) years;
q. Prison/ Jail Authority- shall refer either to the BUCOR Director General, the BJMP Chief or the wardens of provincial, city, district and municipal jails;
r. Recidivist- a person who, at the time of his trial for one crime, shall have been previously convicted by final judgment of another crime embraced in the same title of Act no. 3185, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code (RPC);
The resolution of the aims of this research was based on relevant legal doctrines and principles especially on statutory construction and analysis on relevant jurisprudence wherein the subject law was applied.
In resolving the first objective, the researchers employed a careful study of several senate and house bills for the purpose of enacting GCTA Law during the 15th Congress. To add, the researchers looked into pertinent committee reports from Congress and legislative journals as effective means to ascertain the legislative intent of the law. The researcher also made an application of the GCTA Law to the case of Mayor Sanchez to test whether or not it can be validly applied on the basis of the law’s main intent.
For the second objective, the researchers analyzed the content of both the old implementing Rules and Regulations made when the law was enacted in 2013 and the revised version made by the present administration with the goal of expressly stating the classes of persons deprived of liberty who are disqualified from benefiting from the GCTA Law which includes those convicted of heinous crimes among others.
In the last objective, the researchers made a critical discussion on the effects of the application of the law on a relevant case where GCTA was applied. The highlighted how the law was enforced by the proper executive bodies and the issues which required the Supreme Court’s interpretation on the validity of the law’s implementation.
Determine and establish the legislative intent if the GCTA Law
It is an established rule in Statutory Construction that we should not deviate from clear, plain, and simple text of the law. This principle is known as verba legis, which means literal interpretation of the wordings of the law. However, whenever a given statute gives a doubtful or ambiguous meaning, it shall be resolved by ascertaining or discovering the intent of the legislature in enacting such law.
In this case, we have RA 10592 also known as the “Good Conduct Time Allowance Law.” In its original IRR, it was disputed that there was no express provision as to who are entitled to avail the benefits given by the said law. Hence, gave rise to the possible application to the case of former Mayor Sanchez who was convicted of a heinous crime of rape with homicide.
Let us then discuss the origin of this GCTA Law, namely, House Bill (HB) No. 417 from the Congress and Senate Bill (SB) No. 3064 from the Senate. For HB No. 417, which was introduced by then Congressman and now Senator Sonny Angara, the title provided for in this bill was “An Act Giving Offenders the Fullest Benefit of Preventive Imprisonment, amending for the Purpose of Article 29 of Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code.” It can be inferred that the sole purpose of this bill is to allow PDLs to benefit from the period of their Preventive Imprisonment if they have undergone such as a credit to lessen their sentence with the exceptions from availing to the following classes of PDLs: recidivist, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes. None was mentioned about good time allowance. In a recent interview, Senator Angara said that he is pushing to amend the law so as to clarify it and avoid future misapplication.
Moving forward, in SB No. 3064, with Senator Chiz Escudero as sponsor. A careful look at the Committee Report No. 82 which summarized the senate bills proposed in response to HB No. 417, clearly shows that it was in the senate version that included amendments for additional related articles of the RPC, including article 97 for good conduct time allowance among others. Thus, giving the name of the RA 10592, “ACT AMENDING ARTICLES 29, 94, 97, 98 AND 99 OF ACT NO. 3815, AS AMENDED, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE REVISED PENAL CODE.” It can now be safely establish that while it is true that both the House of Representatives and the Senate have the same purpose which is to give qualified PDLs credit for the period of their preventive imprisonment, it was the senate version that went on and became a law, thus including additional specific provisions together with good conduct time allowance.
The main issue of misinterpretation and confusion lies in section one and section three of RA 10592. These sections of the law provide:
Section 1. Article 29 of Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code, is hereby further amended to read as follows:
ART. 29. Period of preventive imprisonment deducted from term of imprisonment. – Offenders or accused who have undergone preventive imprisonment shall be credited in the service of their sentence consisting of deprivation of liberty, with the full time during which they have undergone preventive imprisonment if the detention prisoner agrees voluntarily in writing after being informed of the effects thereof and with the assistance of counsel to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted prisoners, except in the following cases:
“1. When they are recidivists, or have been convicted previously twice or more times of any crime; and
“2. When upon being summoned for the execution of their sentence they have failed to surrender voluntarily.
“If the detention prisoner does not agree to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted prisoners, he shall do so in writing with the assistance of a counsel and shall be credited in the service of his sentence with four-fifths of the time during which he has undergone preventive imprisonment.
“Credit for preventive imprisonment for the penalty of reclusion perpetua shall be deducted from thirty (30) years.
“Whenever an accused has undergone preventive imprisonment for a period equal to the possible maximum imprisonment of the offense charged to which he may be sentenced and his case is not yet terminated, he shall be released immediately without prejudice to the continuation of the trial thereof or the proceeding on appeal, if the same is under review. Computation of preventive imprisonment for purposes of immediate release under this paragraph shall be the actual period of detention with good conduct time allowance: Provided, however, That if the accused is absent without justifiable cause at any stage of the trial, the court may motu proprio order the rearrest of the accused: Provided, finally, That recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage of this Act. In case the maximum penalty to which the accused may be sentenced is destierro, he shall be released after thirty (30) days of preventive imprisonment.”
Section 3. Article 97 of the same Act is hereby further amended to read as follows:
“ART. 97. Allowance for good conduct. – The good conduct of any offender qualified for credit for preventive imprisonment pursuant to Article 29 of this Code, or of any convicted prisoner in any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center or any other local jail shall entitle him to the following deductions from the period of his sentence:
“1. During the first two years of imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of twenty days for each month of good behavior during detention;
“2. During the third to the fifth year, inclusive, of his imprisonment, he shall be allowed a reduction of twenty-three days for each month of good behavior during detention;
“3. During the following years until the tenth year, inclusive, of his imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of twenty-five days for each month of good behavior during detention;
“4. During the eleventh and successive years of his imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of thirty days for each month of good behavior during detention; and
“5. At any time during the period of imprisonment, he shall be allowed another deduction of fifteen days, in addition to numbers one to four hereof, for each month of study, teaching or mentoring service time rendered.
“An appeal by the accused shall not deprive him of entitlement to the above allowances for good conduct.”
In section one, the law clearly stipulates the main objective of allowing qualified PDLs to avail of the credit on their sentence from the preventive imprisonment that they have undergone as well as how it can be applied whether full or 4/5 of such period, depending on the cases specified therein. More importantly, this section provides for a list of PDL classes that cannot avail of such credit, namely: recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes. It was clearly stipulated that these classes of PDLs are excluded from benefitting not just for Article 29, but also in the act itself.
Moreover, in section three, this gave life to the amendments of article 97 of RPC which recognizes Article 29 as a precedent before this article can be applied. The article provides, “The good conduct of any offender qualified for credit for preventive imprisonment pursuant to Article 29 of this Code or of any convicted prisoner in any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center or any other local jail shall entitle him to the following deductions…”This shows that in order for a PDL to avail of good conduct time allowance, he must also be qualified with the conditions of article 29 for preventive imprisonment, which as mentioned above, excludes persons charged of heinous crimes among other classes of PDLs. The confusion is with the succeeding part of the article which states, “any convicted prisoner in any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center or any other local jail shall entitle him to the following deductions…” Justice Luis B. Reyes, in his book in Criminal Law said that the phrase, “any prisoner” in Article 97 thereof is to be regarded as referring only to a prisoner serving sentence, taken from the case of Banking v. Director of Prisons. At a glance, one might think that this article simply gives the options of who can avail of good conduct time allowance, first “those good conduct of any offender qualified for credit for preventive imprisonment pursuant to article 29” and second, “ any convicted prisoner in any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center or any other local jail shall entitle him to the following deductions.” With this contention, those who are actually serving sentence, regardless they are in the classes of PDLs who are excluded in article 29 can validly benefit for GCTA Law.
Let us try to put this construction of article 97 to test. Say in the case of People v. Sanchez, G.R. No. 121039-45. January 25, 1999. The former mayor along with the other accused was charged and convicted, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape with homicide on seven counts and sentenced each one of them to suffer the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua for each of the seven offenses or a total of seven reclusion perpetua for each accused. Take note that an accused undergoes preventive imprisonment when the offense charged is nonbailable (such as rape with homicide), or even if bailable, he cannot furnish the required bail. Applying the mentioned construction of article 97 of RPC, it would appear that Mayor Sanchez is prohibited in the first part of the said article while he can be allowed in the second part to be entitled of good conduct time allowance. It would seem unsuitable for one particular article of a law to prohibit and at the same time allow something such as the case of Mayor Sanchez. Therefore, the above-mentioned construction would give rise to an inconsistent reading of the law. While it is true that the very wisdom behind this law is to allow certain classes of PDLs to the benefit of their good conduct time allowance, it would surely be not germane to this intent to also include PDLs with cases involving serious moral depravity.
Additionally, in People v. Tan, No. L-21805, article 97 was also used as a means to determine the proper computation of good conduct time allowance. Wherein the Supreme Court said that the appellee has an unserved portion of 11 months and five days. Needless to say, article 97 has provided for its specific manner of computation in its application.
Determine the compliance of the old and revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the GCTA LAW to the law itself
SENATORS cited what they deemed the alarming misuse of a law expanding prisoners good-conduct credits in order to declog the country’s jails, but Department of Justice (DOJ) officials said the law that allowed this had opened avenues for ambiguity, and asked Congress to amend it.
This, as senators credited convicted rapist ex-Mayor Antonio Sanchez with drawing national attention to the legal loopholes as his impending release triggered a public uproar over anomalies at the New Bilibid Prison. There, affluent prisoners looking to cut their jail time could allegedly resort to credits under good conduct time allowance (GCTA) as liberalized by Republic Act 10575 of 2013.
The GCTA credits are said to be for sale to affluent prisoners under the watch of the Bureau of Corrections. However, former BuCor chief and now Sen. Ronald Bato dela Rosa told his peers that during his watch, he had sought to end this abuse and repeatedly warned BuCor employees against selling GCTA credits. Dela Rosa said he could not find clear evidence of this despite encouraging inmates’ families to give him information on BuCor staff demanding money for credits.
DOJ chiefs review power
Sen. Franklin Drilon pressed for a congressional review of RA 10575, also known as the Bureau of Corrections law, citing Section 8 of its provision that the Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary shall retain the power to review, reverse or revise BuCor decisions. Under the law, the BuCor chief exercises authority to release, but [this] shall not apply to prisoners convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment,Drilon said, adding, in the case of Sanchez, no such approval was released by the DOJ.
Asked pointblank by Senate probers, Faeldon admitted signing a release order last August 20, but insisted—to the consternation of Sen. Panfilo Lacson who was grilling him—that it was a memorandum of release and that this only started the process but [was] not the release order. We stopped it, he added.
Faeldon clarified that the process followed in issuing GCTA never changed and was being implemented regardless of offenses, even drugs, adding that this was applied from 2014 until now.
Justice department officials, however, assured senators that the DOJ is taking a second look at the GCTA, admitting that we are reviewing because of the outrage…We reviewed the law and tried to harmonize conflicting provisions.
Justice Secretary Guevarra pointed out that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10575 does not indicate heinous crimes . . . There’s doubt in interpretation.
The secretary suggested the need to clarify ambiguity, adding: We are here to provide help in crafting the legal framework that we may be asked [to help provide] … if there are gaps, remedial legislation can plug the gaps.
Guevarra noted that much reforms can be done,adding, for instance, that certain amendments can be done in the GCTA. We would rather that the legislature state policy more clearly,adding that there are no whereas clauses. The policy of the law is normally stated in whereas clauses that were not in this law.
The DOJ secretary also stressed the need to determine (if) the main thrust is reformative or punitive-retributive, rehabilitative or punitive; that needs to be spelled out.
Guevarra said provisions of the law can be crafted in a better way, noting that the intent of the law is to exclude those convicted of heinous crime from enjoying the expanded GCTA credits. Had it been clearly stated [in a] stand-alone provision that it should not apply on classes of people, there would be no confusion.
Determine how the law has been enforced since its effectivity on the basis of its implementing Rules and Regulations and relevant decided cases
The implementation of the GCTA law, particularly on the basis of its Rules &Regulation have been enforced erroneously in the past years. In the case of the early release of the former mayor of Calauan Laguna, Antonio Sanchez, who committed Rape and Murder which was considered as a heinous crime which is therefore punishable by Reclusion Perpetua. The Bureau of Corrections Chief, Nicanor Faeldon, in justifying the release of the former mayor said that he was merely following the guidelines; that he was following the law. It seems therefore that, in one way or the other, the Rules and Regulations has some sort of discrepancy in the sense that these convicts who have been allowed to avail of the Good Conduct Allowance should not have been allowed to avail of it since they were not, in the first place, allowed to avail preventive imprisonment. Section 29 of the Revised Penal Code provides who may be allowed to avail of preventive imprisonment, and these do not include those who have committed heinous crimes. Further, Section 97 of the code provides that if a person who is not allowed to avail preventive imprisonment may not also avail of the Good Conduct Allowance. Now, since the former mayor was allowed to avail of the said allowance by virtue of the Implemented Rules and Regulations, it follows therefore that the said Rules and Regulations are contrary to the law, or at the very least only its implementation.
While the GCTA is a good idea, the question of determining whether conduct falls under ‘good conduct’ to merit the GCTA may be arbitrary sans any objective standards to measure, assess, and rate such law. As a general rule, all laws operate prospectively, i.e., to situations and events that arise after their effectivity. The rationale for this is simple – ignorance of the law excuses no one only if everyone is informed that such a law exists. The prospective application of laws becomes even more important when the law is a penal law, i.e., one that defines a crime and provides a punishment for the crime. For this reason, Article 21 of the Revised Penal Code prohibits the imposition of any punishment for any act that was not punished by law before its commission; this is consistent with the constitutional guarantee of protection against ex post facto laws under Article III, section 22 of the 1987 Constitution. An ex post facto law is a law that is retroactively prejudicial. For an accused or a convict, an example of an ex post facto penal law would be one that would make a punishment for a crime more severe than when the crime was first committed. Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code provides an exception to prospective application of laws and expressly allows a penal law to be retroactive on only one instance: when it is pro reo (literally, “when in doubt, for the accused”) or when it is beneficial to the accused or convict, except when the accused or convict is a habitual criminal. The need for more objective criteria to determine good conduct with all the noise that has arisen out of the possibility that the former mayor may be set free on GCTA alone, greater scrutiny has now been trained on the Bureau of Corrections and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. This is as it should be. For while the GCTA is a good idea, the question of determining whether conduct falls under “good conduct” to merit the GCTA may be arbitrary sans any objective standards to measure, assess, and rate such.
This is one area of reform that Congress may look into rather than to consider whether the death penalty is an option (it is not) or whether to do away with the three-fold rule or to simply legislate exclusions.
This study is about collation of jurisprudence, legal doctrines, and relevant news articles to be able to discuss and resolve the objectives set in the study itself. Thus, the researchers would like to recommend the use of expert opinion from law practitioners. The idea of an expert opinion is to further substantiate the contents of this research study. An expert opinion would be a helpful tool to either affirm or contradict some of the present circumstances underlying this alleged misapplication and abuse of law.
Since the GCTA Law is relatively young, not many cases decided by the Supreme Court has been based form this law. However, testimonies of witnesses claiming irregularities in the use of the GCTA Law’s IRR would be a good addition to the contents of this study. It would provide a deeper understanding to seriousness of the issues involved.
Lastly, the researchers recommend the use of the decisions to be made by the Supreme Court for the pending cases filed, challenging the validity of the revised IRR of GCTA law. Such cases may prove to be good comparison and gauge to the discussions made in this study.
Congress of the Philippines.(2012).Retrieved from https://www.lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2013/ra_10592_2013.html
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We cannot express enough thanks to the group for their continued support, encouragement, and never-ending aid: Ma. Sophia Claudine Apuada, Ralph Jem Tabangcora, Stephanie Anne Be, and Christien Derrick Chin. We offer our sincerest appreciation for the learning experience and opportunities provided by the group.
The completion of this project would not have been possible were it not for the support of our classmates: Anne Ongsuco, Keziah Roa, Rachel Gella, Bobby Orbista, Mitzi Encarnacion, Mikail Bello, Ana Amar, Gabrielle Diaz, Anny Abalos, Gale Morales, and last but not least, Olivia Faustus. We will always be forever grateful for their moral support. Some help may not have been as direct as compared to the others, but nevertheless, without all of their help, we would never have been able to continue working much less finish this work. For that, we would like to give our thanks from the bottom of our hearts.
Finally, special thanks are afforded to our professor Atty. Jocelle Batapa Sigue, without whom this would not have been possible. Furthermore, a big thank you should also be afforded to Cedric Lance Militar, without whose encouragement when the times got rough are much apreciated and duly noted. It was a great comfort and relief to know that they are willing to provide support and help inorder that we may be able to finish our requiement in this subject. A great thank you are afforded to these people from the bottom of our hearts.
About the Researches
- Stephanie Anne Be
Ms. Stephanie “Achi” Anne Be is a sweet mother-like figure in our group. She provides for the most emotional support and has contributed to our research paper more than we could ever have hoped and asked for. She is a graduate of the University of St. La Salle. She is of Chinese descent, and the mandarin she speaks is always to help us get through the day and encourage us to do our jobs completely and fruitfully. She has a sunny attitude and has always been the sun to the rain when it came to the difficult times we have encountered in the course of making the paper. This wonderful person is currently a law student at the University of St. LAsalle.
- Ralph Jem Tabangcora
Mr. Ralph is as strict as a father figure could be. He would always scold us if we were taking an unnecessary long break. This, in fact, made us respect him more, not only as a fellow researcher but also as the one who would be our pillar when times are rough, so to speak. Mr. Jem as he would like to be called is always the first one in our group to finish his requirements. The combination of hard work and dedication is what sets Mr. Jem apart from the other group members. He is always studying, making changes, making reiterations all for the purpose of making our research paper as airtight as possible. This hard working man is currently a law student at the University of St. Lasalle.
- Ma. Sophia Claudine Salado Apuada
Ms. Sophia Claudine Apuada is the most brilliant researcher we have ever had. She likes to work in her own pace and then some. We would always stand in awe when she presents her ideas. These unorthodox idea on how to approach the given problem really took a whole lot of load from our backs. Her brilliant nature really gave us the real impression that she would carry this group till the very end. And that she did. Her intuitions were never wrong; it was on point. In light of all of this, her brilliance were complemented by her giving nature. She would always provide for snacks and at one time she even spent for our whole lunch! A perfect combination of brilliance and kindness. I would not have asked for a better group mate.
- Christien Derrick Chin
Mr. Christien is a good writer. He always suggested ideas that the group took into consideration. He is, to say the least, a wonderful person. He would most often times look after the group when they are tired, offering them coffee and in some circumstance offered to do the work for them. The group however, as hardworking as they are, did not agree to such offer. Mr. Chin was the light of this group. He would almost always have a funny remark just to get the group in high spirits when they seem to be down. In fine, he was the glue that held this group together. Without him, this group’s brilliant ideas would not have been settled as much as they are all wonderful.