Sep 25, 2020 @ 13:02

SC: Sale of drugs a ‘heinous crime’; convicts not entitled to early release on good behavior

The Supreme Court (SC) has declared that the sale of dangerous drugs is a heinous crime and those convicted of the offense are not entitled to be released early on good behavior.

In a recent 10-page resolution, the SC 3rd Division denied the petition for the writ of habeas corpus filed in behalf of Raymundo Reyes and Vincent Evangelista, who both already served at least 19 years and two months in prison.

Their counsel Rubee Ruth Cagasca-Evangelista, who is Evangelista’s wife, argued that under Republic Act (RA) No. 10592, they were entitled to a computation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) that would allow them to serve the sentence of reclusion perpetua (up to 40 years) in only 18 years.

However, the SC cited the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in 2019 in the aftermath of a scandal arising from the aborted early release of murderer-rapist Antonio Sanchez.

The 2013 law did not list the “heinous crimes” that would disqualify a convict from availing himself of the GCTA credits,

But, the 2019 IRR defined it as including “crimes which are mandatorily punishable by death under the provisions of RA No. 7659,” as well as those “crimes specifically declared as such by the Supreme Court.”

Among the crimes that used to be punishable by death under the 1993 law was the sale and distribution of prohibited drugs, until the imposition of the death penalty was prohibited in 2006 through RA No. 9346.

In denying the habeas corpus petition in this case, the SC categorically said Reyes and Evangelista, “who were found guilty of illegal sale of dangerous drugs exceeding 200 grams, have committed a heinous crime.”

It explained that the crime is heinous because “its inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and perversity is repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society.”

The resolution, penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda, added that the rules and regulations “issued by administrative bodies to interpet the law which they are entrusted to enforce… have the force of law and are entitled to great respect.”

It said the IRR has the presumption of legality in its favor and cannot be ignored when its validity was not put in issue.

Reyes and Evangelista were arrested in a December 13, 2000 buy-bust operation in Kamuning, Quezon City. The police seized 974.12 grams, or nearly one kilogram, of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) from them.

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