Enrile wants De Lima, Roxas perpetually barred from public office for GCTA mess

Robie de Guzman   •   September 18, 2019   •   287

Former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Leila de Lima

MANILA, Philippines – Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday said that detained Senator Leila de Lima and former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas should be perpetually barred from seeking public office for the alleged confusion created by the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) they crafted for the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law.

Enrile blamed De Lima and Roxas for the irregularities in the implementation of the law which led to the questionable release of 1,914 heinous crimes convicts.

“They should be disqualified forever from holding public office,” the former lawmaker said when asked by reporters at the Senate about the possible liability of De Lima and Roxas over the mess.

The former senator said the Republic Act 10592, which expanded the GCTA given to inmates, clearly states that convicts involved in heinous crimes are among those excluded from availing of the early release rule based on good conduct credits.

Enrile said the IRR crafted by De Lima and Roxas, which supposedly added heinous crime convicts as GCTA beneficiaries, was “unconstitutional and void ab initio (from the beginning).”

Enrile was the Senate president when the GCTA law was approved in 2013.

“Sila ang may kasalanan sila ang gumawa eh the people below them are being guided by what they did,” he said.

The 95-year old former lawmaker said heinous convicts wrongly released under the GCTA law who continue to refuse to surrender to authorities could now be hunted since they are not supposed to be released in the first place.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier set a 15-day deadline for these convicts to surrender for investigation and recomputation of their good conduct credits.

The ultimatum, which Duterte issued on Sept. 4, will lapse on Sept. 19 (Thursday).

The president earlier warned GCTA-freed heinous criminals who remain at large will be treated as fugitives from justice if they failed to comply with the order. He also pushed through with his plan to offer P1 million bounty for the capture of each heinous crime convicts.

The Office of the Ombudsman earlier asked De Lima and Roxas to explain or clarify in writing the implementing rules they drafted for the law as part of their ongoing investigation on the matter.

But De Lima said the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction or authority over her as a sitting senator, citing Section 21 of the Ombudsman Act of 1989.

She also said she has no official capacity to reply to the Ombudsman’s query on the GCTA issue as she is no longer the Secretary of Justice.

“[I] would like to clarify that I am no longer the Secretary of Justice. I am now a Senator of the Republic. I cannot in my official capacity as a Senator reply to a query that exclusively pertains to official business of the Department of Justice whose present Secretary is Menardo Guevarra,” De Lima said in a statement.

READ: De Lima says Ombudsman request for explanation on GCTA rules ‘highly irregular’

Guevarra, however, refused to blame any body about the mess, saying they already revised the law’s implementing rules to specifically state who among the convicts are ineligible from availing GCTA grants.

“We at the DOJ won’t dwell on things that had come to pass, much less waste our time on an unproductive blame game. The revised IRR reflects our best interpretation of RA 10592 as it was actually crafted, finalized, and signed,” he said in a statement. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Grace Casin)

DILG welcomes petition questioning legality of revised GCTA guidelines

Robie de Guzman   •   October 2, 2019

Inmates listen during 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. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has welcomed the petition filed before the Supreme Court questioning the legality of the revised implementing rules and regulations of the Republic Act 10592 which increased the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) given to inmates.

DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said they are ready to defend their position, adding that the department along with the Department of Justice (DOJ) worked hard to promulgate the revised guidelines to “clarify the ambiguous provisions of the GCTA law that have led to past abuse in its implementation.”

“The revised IRR addresses the many inadequacies of the old IRR that were abused and taken advantage of by corrupt correctional officials,” Malaya said in a statement.

“We will be working closely with our statutory counsel, the Office of the Solicitor General, and the DOJ in vigorously defending the new IRR before the Supreme Court,” he added.

The DILG official also stressed that the law gave the DOJ and the DILG the authority and responsibility to craft the IRR.

Officers from the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) who have the “necessary experience and technical expertise on the matter” helped in the crafting of the guidelines.

“The new IRR is one crucial step in the reform of the BuCor,” Malaya said.

A group of inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) earlier filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to nullify the revised IRR of the GCTA law, 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 petitioners also urged the high court to order the BuCor and the BJMP to refrain from retroactively applying the exclusions introduced by the revised IRR which they said are disadvantageous to any prisoners.

“While we are confident of our legal position, the final arbiter will be the highest court of the land whose decision we shall honor and respect,” Malaya concluded.

Bilibid inmates challenge revised GCTA law IRR before SC

Robie de Guzman   •   September 30, 2019

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)

DOJ to release sanitized list of heinous crime convicts freed under GCTA next week

Maris Federez   •   September 26, 2019

Inmates stand inside a prison cell during 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. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra admitted that the GCTA controversy, as well as the near release of former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez, was a huge challenge for his department.

“It’s something na parang a major shock in the system,” Guevarra said.

With this, Guevarra said that the department is now doubling its efforts in reviewing and scrutinizing the records of the affected prisoners.

He added that the freed convicts under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) who surrendered and was, later on, found out that they were not included in the list will be sent home at the soonest time possible.

The DOJ is also set to release the list of heinous crime convicts who were freed thru the GCTA credits by next week.

“By Sept. 30, we will be coming up with that cleaned up list. Yung mga heinous crime convicts who are still out there so hahanapin na yan ng PNP and even ng military,” he said.

The Bureau of Corrections list only consisted of 1,914 freed convicts. However, more than 2,000 surrendered and most of them had already been turned over to the Bucor.

Also to take effect next week is the new implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the GCTA Law, and it is expected to pave the way for the correct recalculation of sentence of the prisoners. (from the report of Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

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