MANILA, Philippines – As the saga on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law continues, Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said that for now, there is no stopping the Department of Justice (DOJ) from revising internal guidelines.
Bersamin added that anyone unsatisfied by the DOJ action is also free to file a contention with the SC. After all, the GCTA law was made retroactive only on the petition of Bilibid inmates who contested the Aquino-time implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
“It’s up to the secretary of justice to tell us kung ano ‘yung kanyang sinasakop (what is covered). But if anyone is not satisfied, then they can come to us again. That’s the process,” Bersamin told reporters on Tuesday, August 27.
Bersamin was referring to clashing interpretations of Republic Act No. 10592 or the GCTA law, insofar as whether heinous crimes shall be excluded from the coverage of GCTA benefits.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the DOJ view is that heinous crimes should be excluded. Guevarra has suspended the processing of early release of inmates under the GCTA law “as a precautionary measure and in the interest of prudence.”
The controversy arose from public backlash against the potential early release of convicted murderer and rapist Antonio Sanchez, who has served 25 years out of his maximum 40-year sentence. The GCTA law can slash up to half an inmate’s sentence if there is sustained good behavior. (READ: BEYOND SANCHEZ: How to improve the Good Conduct Time Allowance law)
Guevarra said they aim to finish the review in just 10 days. He said it is likely that the review will conclude that heinous crimes shall be excluded from the law.
The issue on heinous crimes gets even trickier because the only law that enumerates the offenses classified as heinous crimes is Republic Act No. 7659, which previously imposed the death penalty.
The death penalty has been repealed.
Bersamin refused to give an opinion.
“I cannot comment either way on their interpretation because that is within their discretion. Now it may be different if anything will be brought up to our attention later on,” Bersamin said.