HONTIVEROS PUSHES FOR REFORMS TO ELIMINATE “GCTA FOR SALE”

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday pushes for reforms in the application of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law, particularly in light of the public outrage surrounding the foiled release of convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez and allegations that GCTAs are being sold to undeserving and unqualified inmates.

In a letter addressed to Department of Justice (DOJ) Secrerary Menardo Guevarra, Hontiveros proposed amendments in the law's implementing rules and regulations (IRR). She called for the revision of Section 3.I (Prison Rules Violations) of the Uniform Manual on Time Allowances and Service of Sentence. She explained that the provision enumerates the violations of prison rules that would result in the non-entitlement of a Person Deprived of Liberty (PDL) of the grant of GCTA for the month where the violation took place.

"I immediately noticed that the list of violations were not clustered by severity. Therefore, Sanchez's offense of smuggling drugs inside the statue of the Virgin Mary -- "receiving, keeping, taking, or drinking of liquor and prohibited drugs and smoking" - will only have the same effect as "willful waste of food." I find this absurd, given the obvious gravity of drug smuggling. I propose that certain severe offenses have the effect of cancelling previously-earned good conduct credits, so that the consequence on the PDL is greater," Hontiveros said.

The Senator also called for a parole reporting system to balance the legitimate issues of public safety and the principles of restorative justice. "I propose that a PDL who is granted early release after application of GCTA be put on parole for two (2) years, and be required to report to a parole officer within the stated period of time," she said.

Hontiveros also proposed for a temporary suspension of the retroactive implementation of the GCTA in order to update the Manual. She said that the central problem is that the Uniform Manual on Time Allowances and Service of Sentence is not equipped to implement retroactively R.A. 10592, as it was originally crafted with prospective implementation in mind.

The Senator however supported the continuing and improving implementation of the monthly monitoring mechanisms under R.A. 10592.

"There is enough data to demonstrate that incentivizing good behavior is central to prisoner rehabilitation. I have seen studies that show that exposure to self-development activities (like ALS and study programs) for example, decreases recidivism," Hontiveros explained.

"As an advocate of restorative justice, I remain committed to the principles that underpin Republic Act No. 10592. However, the issues that surfaced during the Senate hearing demonstrate the need to clarify and reform the Implementing Rules and Regulations as articulated in the Uniform Manual on Time Allowances and Service of Sentence of the said law. As we review the law itself for possible amendments, there may be some reforms that can already be introduced in the IRR, which is within the purview of the DOJ," Hontiveros said.

Source: Senate of the Philippines