Bilibid inmates challenge revised GCTA law IRR before SC

Robie de Guzman   •   September 30, 2019   •   712

Members of the Police Special Action Force frisk inmates following a peace accord event to stop violence amongst gangs inside the New ‘Bilibid’ Prison’s maximum security compound in Muntinlupa City, south of Manila, Philippines, 27 December 2018.  (PHOTOVILLE)

MANILA, Philippines – A group of inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) have challenged before the Supreme Court (SC) the legality of the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Republic Act 10592, which expanded the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) given to inmates.

In the filed petition for certiorari and prohibition, the group asked the SC to declare as invalid the recently revised implementing rules, particularly the provision disqualifying convicts of heinous crimes from availing of time allowance for good conduct, loyalty, study, teaching and mentoring for “going beyond the law and for being tantamount to executive legislation.”

The petition which was filed last September 24 is the first known legal challenge against the IRR of the controversial GCTA law.

It listed as respondents Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) chief Allan Sullano Iral.

The DOJ and the DILG last Sept. 16 signed the revised IRR of the Republic Act 10592 after a 10-day review following a controversy relating to its application.

The revised IRR now explicitly excludes recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and convicts of heinous crimes from benefitting from the GCTA law. It also enumerated the cases that are defined as heinous crimes under the law, including treason, bribery, parricide, murder, kidnapping, serious illegal detention and rape, among others.

But the petitioners said the revised implementing rules was issued with grave discretion amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction. They also argue that some of its provisions violate the equal protection clause under the Constitution.

The petitioners also urged the high court to order the BuCor and the BJMP to recompute with reasonable dispatch the time allowances due to petitioners and all those who are in similar situations.

This is to pave for their immediate release from imprisonment after fully serving their sentence, “unless they are being confined for some other lawful cause.”

The petitioner-inmates also want the SC to order the BuCor and BJMP to refrain from retroactively applying the exclusions introduced by the revised IRR which they said are disadvantageous to any prisoners.

The review of the law’s IRR was prompted by public outrage on the possible early release of former mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted of rape and murder, after his sentence of seven-term reclusion perpetua was shortened by GCTAs.

The issue led to the revelations of the release of some heinous crime convicts and the anomalies in the BuCor. It also led to the dismissal of Nicanor Faeldon as BuCor chief, and President Duterte to set a deadline for the surrender of nearly 2,000 GCTA-freed convicts or be hunted down by police.

“Regrettably, all these public outrage and media attention have contributed to the actions undertaken by herein respondents. Ultimately, herein petitioners and those who are similarly situated are the ones who are suffering and are continuing to suffer,” the petitioners said.

Guevarra, in response to the petition, said he cannot issue any comment, saying it is the Office of the Solicitor General who will represent the respondents and submit the proper comment on their behalf.

“All I can say is that I’ve eagerly awaited the filing of this petition. Considering that some important provisions of RA 10592 have been interpreted differently by various groups, I have as much interest as anyone in knowing the correct legal interpretation,” Guevarra said in a statement.

“Only the Supreme Court has the final word on the issue and I hope that it will affirm mine,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Nel Maribojoc)

SC suspends transfer of convicted inmates to BuCor due to COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   July 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the courts in the country to temporarily suspend the issuance of commitment order for the transfer of convicted inmates from detention facilities to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

In a circular posted on the Supreme Court’s Twitter page, Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said that all convicted persons deprived of liberty (PDL) who should have been transferred to the BuCor should remain in the facilities of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) from July 29 to August 31, 2020.

This is in line with the request of BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag to the Office of the Court Administrator to temporarily suspend the issuance of commitment orders to BuCor to prevent the further contamination of COVID-19 and to minimize the movement of inmates.

Both the BuCor and the BJMP have recorded cases of COVID-19 in their facilities with reported fatalities.

Detained persons awaiting or facing trials are placed under the custody of the BJMP while those convicted are under the BuCor.

DOJ hopes SC will rule on merit, not personalities behind petitions vs anti-terror law

Robie de Guzman   •   July 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday expressed hope that the Supreme Court will resolve the questions on the legality of Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 based on the merits, and not the number and personalities behind lawsuits.

“All these petitions, no matter how many they are, will boil down to a common set of constitutional issues. The Supreme Court will resolve these issues on the merits of the arguments advanced by the parties concerned, and not on the basis of their number or personal or professional stature,” Guevarra said.

At least 16 petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court against the controversial measure which came into effect this month.

Among those who questioned the validity of the law were law professors and former officials of the Executive branch and retired Supreme Court Justices.

The petitioners questioned the vague and broad provisions of the law that may lead to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement and malicious prosecution of innocent people.

Petitioners also urged the high court to declare the entire law unconstitutional and to stop its implementation.

Morales, Carpio, UP law profs file petition vs anti-terror law

Robie de Guzman   •   July 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, and law professors at the University of the Philippines on Wednesday filed a petition before the high court against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

In their 86-page plea, Carpio, Morales and several lawyers urged the Supreme Court to declare the entire law unconstitutional and to stop its implementation.

Carpio and Morales were joined by UP Law professors Dante Gatmaytan, Jay Batongbacal, Theodore Te, Victoria Loanzon and Anthony Charlemagne Yu, former Magdalo Party-list Representative Francisco Ashley Acedillo and student leader Tierone James Santos.

The petitioners questioned the vague and broad provisions of the law that may lead to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement and malicious prosecution of innocent people.

The group also blasted the powers granted to the Anti-Terrorism Council that, they say, are greater than those given to the president in times of invasion and rebellion, including the power to authorize the arrest and detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days without court intervention.

This is the 11th petition to be filed against the anti-terrorism law. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

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