De Lima defends GCTA law vs misapplication to favor certain convicts

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Senator Leila M. de Lima has defended the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law against alleged misapplication and misinterpretation to favor certain convicts following the botched release of 11,000 inmates supposedly eligible for release.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, said her colleagues in Congress should not blame the enactment of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10592 or the Expanded GCTA Law, but determine whether its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) have been followed.

“[The] good conduct here is not mere ‘passive’ good conduct or absence of bad behavior in the sense that the PDL (persons deprived of liberty) has not violated any prison rule,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 581.

“[B]ut [it] contemplates active or pro-active good conduct exemplified by active involvement in rehabilitation programs and authorized activities and exemplary works,” she added.

According to her, Congress should look at whether the 11,000 inmates reportedly eligible for release under GCTA Law have satisfactorily complied with the requirements of the law, specifically on “good conduct” regulation.

The GCTA Law amended several articles under the Revised Penal Code, particularly Article 97 which lays out the allowance for good conduct for PDLs.

De Lima explained “good conduct” is “the conspicuous and satisfactory behavior of a detention or convicted prisoner consisting of active involvement in rehabilitation programs, productive participation in authorized work activities or accomplishment of exemplary deeds coupled with faithful obedience to all prison/jail rules and regulations.”

The IRR also stressed that “in all instances, the detained or convicted prisoner must faithfully obey all prison/jail rules and regulations.”

“Ang tanong dapat natin ngayon ay ito: Sinunod ba o sinusunod ba ang batayan na ito hinggil sa ‘good conduct’ sa pagpapatupad ng batas? Did the 11,000 or so PDLs slated for release in the advent of the SC ruling on the retroactivity of R.A. 10592 truly qualify based on the above definition of ‘good conduct’?,” she asked.

Earlier news reports about the possible, now cancelled, release of convicted rapist and murderer, former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez – which drew nationwide condemnation – prompted calls for a probe into the impending release of 11,000 PDLs under the GCTA law.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also floated the idea that aside from Sanchez, 13 Bilibid inmates who were used by the government as witnesses in the trumped-up drug charges against De Lima might be released under the GCTA law. “Malinaw sa atin na ang mga katulad ni ex-Mayor Sanchez na nahulihan ng shabu at iba pang mga contrabands sa kanyang selda at yung mga NBP convicts-witnesses in the drug cases against me na umamin nga sa pagkakasangkot nila sa illegal dug trading inside NBP at nahulihan rin ng mga contrabands noong Dec. 15, 2014 major raid, ay hindi karapat-dapat bigyan ng GCTA,” De Lima said.

The lady Senator from Bicol said the BuCor should also exercise transparency over the reported actual release of more than 22,000 prisoners, including those convicted of heinous crimes, over the past 5 years.

“How many of these were released under the old law on GCTA, i.e. Art.97 of the Revised Penal Code, and how many under the new law, R.A. 10592, which increased the creditable period for GCTA?” she asked.

Data from the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) revealed that a total of 1,914 prisoners convicted of heinous crime have been granted early release since 2014, a year after the amendment of the GCTA law.

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