DOJ urged to review possible rearrest of heinous crime convicts

MANILA MalacaAang on Tuesday urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the possible rearrest of heinous crime convicts released under Republic Act 10592 or the good conduct time allowance (GCTA).

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this call following the release of almost 2,000 inmates convicted of heinous crimes based on the GCTA which was passed during the previous administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.

The Office of the President urges the DOJ to study the possibility of rearresting those released for GCTA but were disqualified by law, such as those convicted of heinous crimes, Panelo said in a statement.

Citing Senator Franklin Drilon, Panelo raised the possibility of rearresting heinous crimes convicts on the authority of People vs. Tan.

On Monday's Senate hearing on the GCTA law, Drilon referred to the 1967 ruling on the case of Fidel Tan who was ordered arrested by the Supreme Court as a continuation of the penalty he had not completely served.

We note that the case cited by Senator Franklin Drilon, People vs. Tan, where the Supreme Court ordered the rearrest of a person who was erroneously released by a jail warden based on GCTA, may be a good legal basis for the same, he added.

Panelo further noted Article 99 of the Revised Penal Code on the irrevocability of the grant of GCTA, which 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, Panelo said.

He also reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte will not tolerate any form of injustice being committed under his watch.

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, Panelo said.

Unfair to blame Duterte

Among the 2,000 heinous crimes, convicts released under the GCTA law are three of the seven men convicted for the rape and illegal detention of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong, according to Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon.

Panelo, however, said it was unfair of Thelma Chiong, the mother of the two sisters, to blame the President for the release of three of the seven convicts stressing that it was a law passed during the previous administration.

While the Palace understands the plight of Mrs. Chiong and commiserates with her situation, we believe that blaming PRRD for Republic Act 10592 with all its ambiguities is undeserved and unfair, Panelo said.

With due respect to Mrs. Chiong, Republic Act 10592 was not enacted into law during this administration. It was signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III in 2013, with Mr. Sonny Belmonte and Mr. Juan Ponce Enrile, being the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate President, respectively, in Congress, he added.

Panelo said during the previous administration, BuCor released persons deprived of liberty from imprisonment due to good conduct, whether they were serving their sentences for a conviction of a heinous crime or not.

He emphasized that the basis for this practice was the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the law, crafted by former Justice Secretary and now detained Senator Leila de Lima and former Interior Secretary Manuel Mar Roxas II in 2014, which included those convicted of heinous crimes as qualified to avail the benefits of GCTA law.

Clearly, the law and its IRR were prepared not by the officials of this administration but by the previous one. The practice of granting GCTA to those convicted of heinous crimes has also been existent years before PRRD assumed his presidential seat, Panelo said.

Panelo also noted that those who did computations on time allowance were probably employees employed during the previous administration who are protected by the Civil Service Law and cannot be easily removed due to security of tenure.

He pointed out that the 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, an independent branch of the government, which held that RA 10592 should be applied retroactively.

Not form of executive clemency

Moreover, Panelo emphasized that the actual computation of GCTA does not pass through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and 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, Panelo said.

Panelo blamed the Senate during the previous administration for including provisions in the GCTA law which appeared ambiguous especially since there are various interpretations of the law as to its coverage.

The expanded law on GCTA was the Senate's idea. Perhaps the insertion made by the Senate is one of the reasons why the drafting of RA 10592 resulted in a legislative measure which appeared ambiguous at first glance to its enforcers, Panelo said.

Panelo said in the House of Representatives, the bill they passed was only limited to deducting preventive imprisonment from the sentence of the accused.

We join the DOJ in hoping that any ambiguity in the law be remedied by the current Congress, he added. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency