Even convict-witnesses vs De Lima entitled to new reduced prison term rule
MANILA, Philippines – New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmates who testified against detained Senator Leila de Lima may also benefit from the recomputation of sentence to reduce prison terms.
Currently, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) which is an attached agency of the Department of Justice (DOJ), is conducting the recomputation pursuant to Republic Act 10592 or the law that increased the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) given to inmates.
The GCTA provides additional time to be deducted from an inmate’s prison sentence as a reward for his or her good behavior.
Last June, the Supreme Court granted petitions asking that RA 10592 be applied retroactively, meaning it will include inmates prior to the establishment of the law in 2013.
Guevarra admitted that even the inmates that testified against de Lima could benefit from the law.
“Everyone imprisoned by final judgment before 2013 is entitled to a recomputation of GCTAs earned if any. If the subject convicts [inmates that testified against De Lima] qualify for a reduced sentence due to GCTA and they have actually served it [prison sentence], they too will be released,” Guevarra told reporters.
Final judgment means the verdict by the lower court has been affirmed with finality by the higher courts.
But Guevarra clarified that if any of the convicts that testified against De Lima become qualified, “the reduced sentence is a reward for good conduct, not for any other reason.”
De Lima is facing three drug charges before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) concerning her alleged involvement in the proliferation of illegal drugs trading at the NBP.
She already asked the Court of Appeals (CA) not to allow the 13 inmates from testifying against her at the RTC, namely, German Agojo, Nonilo Arile, Jojo Baligad, Joel Capones, Peter Co, Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Durano, Rodolfo Magleo, Noel Martinez, Jaime Patcho, Vicente Sy, Hans Tan, and Froilan Trestiza.
Guevarra pointed out that the DOJ/BuCor is simply implementing what the law states.
“Wala kaming discretionary intervention of any sort dyan,” he said.
Passed during Aquino’s term
The law on GCTA recomputation was passed by Congress during the time of former President Benigno Aquino III. De Lima, who was then Secretary of Justice, along with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), crafted the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) stating that the new law would apply only to inmates whose prison sentence become final after the law was enacted.
Human rights advocates went to the Supreme Court to question the prospective application of the law. The high court granted the petition.
In a ruling written by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, it declared invalid the prospective application of the law. At the same time, it ordered the BuCor and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to recompute the allowances of qualified inmates and release them immediately unless they are being held for other cause./ac
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