10K PDLs to benefit from SC ruling on GCTA coverage

By Benjamin Pulta

April 4, 2024, 4:10 pm

<p>New Bilibid Prison <em>(File photo)</em></p>

New Bilibid Prison (File photo)

MANILA – Prison officials say at least 10,000 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) will benefit from the recent ruling of the Supreme Court to include those who committed heinous crimes in the application of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA).

In G.R. No. 249027 and G.R. No. 249155 (Guinto et al., v. Department of Justice; Inmates of New Bilibid Prison, et al. v. Department of Justice, respectively), the High Court En Banc ruled that the Department of Justice (DOJ), in enacting its 2019 Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), exceeded its power of subordinate legislation when it excluded persons convicted of heinous crimes from the benefits of Republic Act (RA) No. 10592, or the New Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.

It pointed out that Article 97 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 10592, is clear that “any convicted prisoner is entitled to GCTA, as long as the prisoner is in any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center, or any other local jail.”

The SC said the DOJ’s 2019 IRR expanded the scope of R.A. No. 10592 when it excluded recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and PDLs convicted of heinous crimes from earning GCTA credits when the law itself did not do so.

In a statement, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr. said the development may be attributed to the National Decongestion Summit last December, led by the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC), and attended by the three branches of government – the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary – to find solutions to jail and prison overcrowding.

“Today, I have ordered the evaluation of prison records of those who will qualify under this new ruling of the SC, and we have to make sure “na reformed na talaga sila at hindi na sila threat sa society (that they are truly reformed and do not pose a threat to society),” Catapang said.

“After this we will forward this for review of the Department Justice since under the Department Order 652, all PDLs incarcerated in national penitentiaries with expired sentences shall be approved by the Director General of the Bureau of Corrections or his duly authorized representative while the release of PDLs sentenced to life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua or those classified as high-risk/high-profile shall be implemented only upon prior approval of the Secretary of Justice,” he said.

Catapang said the BuCor will also coordinate with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for job opportunities for the released PDLs.

“Priorities will be given to qualified PDLs who are terminally ill or seriously ill, so they still have time to be with their families and loved ones,” he said. (PNA)