Drilon laments SC ruling on GCTA's retroactive application

Drilon laments SC ruling on GCTA’s retroactive application

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Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday lamented a Supreme Court decision last June declaring as invalid Section 4, Rule 1 of the implementing rules and guidelines of Republic Act 10592 in so far as the prospective application for the grant of good conduct time allowance (GCTA) to prisoners.

The controversy over GCTA started in the wake of reports of the impending release of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who had been convicted for the 1993 rape-murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta, and the murder of her companion Allan Gomez.

According to Drilon, the law’s application was prospective in application as shown by the IRR formulated during the time of former justice secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima.

“Noong ipinasa ang batas na iyan, ito
po ay prospective application. Ang sabi ng DOJ (Department of Justice) noon sa panahon ni Secretary De Lima at ng DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government), ito po ay prospective in application. Ibig sabihin, hindi dapat kasama yung na-convict noong bago maipasa ang batas kasama si Mayor Sanchez.”

“Unfortunately, noong dumating sa SC, ang sabi ng SC, dapat retroactive ang application nito,” Drilon bared.

But Drilon, who was the justice secretary when Sanchez was convicted, clarified that the SC didn’t ruled that the DOJ was mistaken on its prospective application of GCTA.

“Hindi po nila kinontra kundi sinabi nila yung IRR ang binuo ng DOJ na nagsasabing prospective, ang sabi nila ay mali iya, ang application ay dapat retroactive,” Drilon said.

The SC came into the picture when several Bilibid inmates challenged one thing about the implementing rules and regulations of RA 10592: its prospective application, which means the law only covers cases from the time it was enacted in 2013.

The Free Legal Assistance Group supported the inmates’ petition, saying a prospective application unreasonably discriminates those who would have benefited from a retroactive application.

Last June 25, the SC unanimously sided with the inmates. In a decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, the en banc held that RA 10592 is a penal law and should therefore have a retroactive effect.

Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code provides that penal laws should have retroactive effect “insofar as they favor the persons guilty of a felony, who is not a habitual criminal.”

As a consequence of the SC ruling and the law, around 200 inmates could be released in one day.

“The law does not make any distinction and applies uniformly to all persons deprived of liberty who have conducted themselves well, usefully and productively,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

For his part, human rights lawyer Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, a group that has represented political prisoners and victims of human rights violations, said the situation was “hard to swallow” but shared a similar view.

“As the current law, jurisprudence and legal principles stand now, unfortunately and most regrettably, they may be released,” Olalia said. And it should apply to all, he said, unless the law is amended to create exceptions.

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