Early release of Antonio Sanchez? Here's what the GCTA law says
Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon said that he may not be among the thousands of inmates set for release soon, based on reported misdemeanors during his imprisonment. Even Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Friday, August 23, that based on the letter and spirit of the law, Sanchez, former Calauan mayor, would be ineligible and disqualified from availing of the benefits of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.
Sanchez, who was convicted in 1995 for the deaths of University of the Philippines-Los Baños students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez in 1993, was initially announced as among those who would benefit from the GCTA law. (LISTEN: [PODCAST] Ang batas na puwedeng magpalaya sa rapist-murderer na si Antonio Sanchez)
This triggered a major backlash from the public. But what is the law about?
What is the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law all about?
Republic Act No. 10592 or the GCTA law was signed in 2013 under then-president Benigno Aquino III.
It amended several articles under the Revised Penal Code, including Article 97 which lays out the allowance for good conduct for persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).
In a nutshell, the GCTA law allows for deduction of sentences of PDLs, depending on how well they abide by rules and regulations inside “any penal institution, rehabilitation, or detention center or any other local jail.” It essentially awards good behavior and recognizes rehabilitation.
The 2013 amendments to the Revised Penal Code, according to a factsheet by the Supreme Court, also expanded the application of the GCTA to the preventive imprisonment period, increased the number of days that may be credited, and allowed additional deductions, among others.
Who is covered by the GCTA Law?
The GCTA law initially was planned to prospectively cover convicted inmates.
The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the law, penned by then-justice secretary Leila de Lima and interior secretary Mar Roxas in 2014, provide for prospective application.
Why prospective? According to Section 4 of the IRR, the rules provide “for new procedures and standards of behavior for the grant of good conduct time allowance…and require the creation of a Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee.”
In 2014, however, several National Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmates questioned this provision before the SC. Top human rights lawyers, including Rene Saguisag and others from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), intervened in support of the petition.
The provision, FLAG said at the time, “discriminates, without any reasonable basis, against those who would have been benefited from the retroactive application of the law.”
On June 2019, voting unanimously, the SC granted the petition, making the GCTA law retroactive. In his concurring opinion, SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said that the prospective provision of the 2014 IRR “implies that all inmates detained or convicted prior to its effectivity can no longer be rehabilitated for a successful reintegration into society, effectively trampling upon their dignity as human beings.”
According to Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon, 1,000 inmates may be set for mass release.
How about those convicted of heinous crimes?
This has been the point of contention of arguments that arose after news broke about Sanchez’s possible early release. The former mayor committed gruesome and horrific acts that merited his conviction in relation to the deaths of the two UPLB students and a father and son in Laguna. (READ: [OPINION | Deep Dive] What the GCTA law needs)
There was a clash between the interpretations of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and former justice undersecretary Reynante Orceo who was part of the joint committee that drafted the law manual. Guevarra said heinous crimes should be excluded, while Orcelo said heinous crimes are still "technically" included. (READ: Can heinous crimes be excluded from good conduct time allowance law?)
Senate President Tito Sotto is for amending the law, while Senator Franklin Drilon is against such move. (READ: Amid Sanchez news, senators split on amending reduced prison term law)
How is the GCTA computed?
Section 3 of RA 10592 provides the guidelines for calculating the GCTA of inmates:
- For the first two years of imprisonment: For each month of good behavior, 20 days will be deducted from the total sentence. If a convict behaved well each month, 480 days, or roughly one year and 3 months, will be deducted from his prison term.
- For the 3rd to 5th years: For each month of good behavior, 23 days will be deducted, or a total maximum deduction of 828 days, or roughly two years and 3 months, from the prison term.
- For the 6th to 10th years: 25 days for each month of good behavior or a total deduction of roughly 1,800 days, or roughly 4 years and 1 month, from the prison term.
- For the 11th and successive years: A month of good behavior equals a 30-day deduction. This means that a person serving 25 years who was well-behaved every month from his 11th to 25th years would get a prison term reduction of 14 years and 7 months.
- In addition, an inmate shall get 15 days additional reduction for each month of study, teaching, or mentoring service.
This means that a PDL who has been in jail for 25 years and who showed good behavior during imprisonment, can have as much as 19 years deducted from his or her jail term.
What can affect a PDL’s possible early release?
Misdemeanors can make or break a PDL’s chance of an early release based on the GCTA law.
According to the uniform manual on time allowances and service sentence released by the DOJ in 2017, the basis for disqualification from GCTA benefits is violation of any of the following prison rules:
- Unauthorized selling or bartering with fellow PDL of items not classified as contraband
- Unauthorized rendering of personal service to fellow PDL
- Littering or failing to maintain cleanliness and orderliness in quarters and/or surroundings
- Making frivolous or groundless complaints
- Taking the cudgels for reporting complaints on behalf of other PDLs
- Late in formation during PDL headcount without justifiable reason
- Willful waste of food
- Failure to report for work without sufficient justification
- Failure to render assistance to an injured personnel or fellow PDL
- Failure to assist in putting out fires inside the prison
- Behaving improperly or acting boisterously during religious, social and other group functions
- Swearing, cursing or using profane or defamatory language directed at other persons
- Malingering or pretending to be sick to escape work assignment
- Spreading rumors or malicious intrigues to besmirch the honor of any person
- Failure to stand at attention and give due respect when confronted by or reporting to any prison of authority
- Forcing fellow PDL to render personal service for him/her and/or to others
- Exchanging uniforms or wearing clothes other than those issued for the purpose of circumventing jail rules
- Loitering or being in an unauthorized place
- Unauthorized use of communication equipment
- Writing, defacing, or drawing on walls, floors or any furniture or equipment
- Withholding information which may be inimical or prejudicial to prison security
- Possession of lewd or pornographic literature, photographs, and sexual items
- Absence from cell, brigade, place of work during headcount, or at any time without justifiable reason
- Failure to turn over any implement/article issued after work detail
- Making untruthful statements or lies in any official communication, transaction, or investigation
- Keeping or concealing keys or locks of places in the prison which are off-limits to PDLs
- Giving gifts, selling, or bartering with any prison authority
- Keeping unauthorized amount of money, jewelry, cellular phones or other communications devices, luxurious properties and other items classified as contraband under the rules
- Tattooing others or allowing him/her to be tattooed on any part of the body, or keeping paraphernalia to be used in tattooing
- Forcibly taking or extorting money from fellow PDL or visitors
- Punishing or inflicting injury or any harm upon him/herself or other PDL
- Receiving, keeping, taking or drinking liquor and prohibited drugs and smoking
- Making, improvising or keeping any kind of deadly weapon
- Concealing or withholding information on plans of escapes
- Unruly conduct and flagrant disregard of discipline and instructions
- Escaping, attempting or planning to escape from the institution or from any guard
- Helping, aiding, or abetting others to escape
- Fighting, causing any disturbance or participating therein and/or agitating to cause such disturbance or riot
- Indecent, immoral, or lascivious act
- Willful disobedience to a lawful order issued by any prison authority
- Assaulting any prison personnel
- Damaging any government property or equipment
- Participating in kangaroo court, an unauthorized or irregular court conducted with disregard for or perversion of legal procedures as mock court by the PDL in a prison;
- Failing to inform the authorities concerned when afflicted with any communicable disease, such as tuberculosis, sexually-transmitted diseases, etc.
- Engaging in gambling or any game of chance
- Committing an act which is in violation of any law or ordinance
- Committing an act prejudicial to good order and discipline
- Any behavior which might lead to disorder or violence, or such other actions that may endanger the facility, the outside community or others
- Any act analogous to the foregoing
Who are in charge of reviewing time allowance?
The same manual of the DOJ lays out the process, involving key employees.
The person deprived of liberty is screened by a time allowance supervisor at the end of each month.
The Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee then reviews for appropriate action, including recommendation to prison authorities, of the grant of the time allowance.
The prison authorities will then act on the recommendation – approve, disapprove, or return it. Decisions will be posted in various places inside the prison facility
Appeals can be made if there are errors or irregularities seen in the evaluation. – Rappler.com