Palace to DOJ: Study possible rearrest of released heinous crime convicts
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to study the possible rearrest of inmates convicted of heinous crimes who were released early under Republic Act 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after nearly 2,000 inmates serving time for heinous crimes were released on the basis of good behavior.
“The Office of the President urges the DOJ to study the possibility of re-arresting those released for GCTA but were disqualified by law, such as those convicted of heinous crimes,” Panelo said.
Panelo cited the People vs. Tan case mentioned by Senator Franklin Drilon, “where the Supreme Court ordered the re-arrest of a person who was erroneously released by a jail warden based on GCTA, may be a good legal basis for the same.”
He also cited Article 99 of the Revised Penal Code, which states “the irrevocability on the grant of GCTA is premised on the grant having a lawful justification.”
“Without a lawful justification, therefore, the said grant is void and the person who benefitted from it may not invoke its irrevocability hence can be incarcerated to continue his or her sentence,” he said.
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Chiong sisters rape and murder case
Bureau of Corrections Director General Nicanor Faeldon admitted before a Senate committee hearing on Monday that three of the seven men convicted for the rape and murder of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong have been released under the GCTA law.
The released of some of the convicts has alarmed Thelma Chiong, mother of the Chiong sisters in the 1997 rape-slay case.
Panelo however assured Chiong and the public that Duterte will not allow abuse of authority in implementing the GCTA law.
“The President will not tolerate any form of injustice being committed under his watch and it is for this reason that he will ensure that the practice initiated by the past administration on the granting of GCTA will no longer continue,” he said.
Panelo, who is also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said the President must not be blamed over the GCTA law mess.
He said the law was passed during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III.
“As revealed during the discussions during the congressional hearing yesterday, it has been the practice of the Bureau of Corrections, during the previous administration, to release persons deprived of liberty from imprisonment due to good conduct, regardless of whether they were serving their sentences for a conviction of a heinous crime or not,” he said.
“The basis for this practice, he added, “was the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the law, crafted and issued jointly by former Secretary of Justice and now detained Leila De Lima and former Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, Manuel Roxas II, in 2014, which included those convicted of heinous crimes as qualified to avail the benefits of RA No. 10592.”
He said “the practice of granting GCTA to those convicted of heinous crimes has also been existent years before (Duterte) assumed his presidential seat.”
“[T]he sudden increase in number of those purported to be eligible to avail of the benefits of GCTA was due to the recent ruling by the Supreme Court, a separate and independent branch of the government, which held that RA No. 10592 should be applied retroactively,” he said.
He explained that “the actual computation of GCTA does not pass through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and therefore will not even reach the Office of the President before its benefits can be granted to qualified inmates.”
“We stress that the granting of GCTA is not a form of executive clemency, the awarding of which belongs to the Office of the President. The buck in this case stops with the Bureau of Corrections,” he said.
He added that “those who had a hand in including convicts not covered by the law in the list to be given the benefits of GCTA and who did the computations on time allowance were probably employees employed during the previous administrations and are therefore protected by the Civil Service Law.”
Duterte, he said, “could not – and cannot – just remove them without violating their security of tenure.”
Panelo said “blaming (Duterte) for Republic Act No. 10592 with all its ambiguities is undeserved and unfair.”
“We join the DOJ in hoping that any ambiguity in the law be remedied by the current Congress,” he said. /muf
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