SC maintains GCTA exclusions, denies murder convict’s release

The Supreme Court (SC) has turned down a petition filed by a murder convict asking for his discharge from prison under Republic Act 10592 or the law granting good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).

In a 10-page decision and written by Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando and published online by the high court on November 29, the tribunal’s second division dismissed the petition filed by PDL Gil Miguel who had sought his release after serving 27 years of the sentence of reclusion perpetua imposed on him for murder.

The GCTA Law and its revised implementing rules and regulations issued in 2019 “have made it abundantly clear that persons charged with and/or convicted of heinous crimes are not entitled to the benefits under the law,” the court said.

Citing provisions of GCTA law and the IRR, the court said “the penalty of reclusion perpetua requires imprisonment of at least 30 years, after which the convict becomes only eligible for pardon, and not for release”.

“It is evident that the crime of murder is one that is mandatorily punishable by death, in accordance with the death penalty law. Being such it falls within the definition of heinous crimes in 2019 revised implementing rules and regulations and is therefore considered as a heinous crime. In sum, murder is considered a heinous crime in so far as the GCTA law is concerned, and persons charged with and/or convicted of such are disqualified from availing of the benefits of the law,” the SC said.

Miguel was charged with murder before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) in 1991 and was found guilty and detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa in 1994. His conviction was affirmed by the SC in 1996.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, commenting on the SC decision citing the GCTA Law’s 2019 Revised IRR in denying the release of a PDL charged with murder, said they will question a November ruling by a lower court involving it in the case of Juanito Itaas, an accused in the April 1989 murder of American military adviser, Col. James Rowe, in Quezon City.

“As I have said earlier, the Supreme Court has the final say on any and all issues of constitutionality. The OSG (Office of the Solicitor general) has filed an MR (motion for reconsideration) in the RTC. It is ready to challenge the trial court’s ruling all the way up. The DOJ crafted the revised implementing rules and regulations of the GCTA law in accordance not only with the letter but more so with the spirit of the law,” Guevarra said in a message.

Despite the SC’s ruling in September, a Muntinlupa court in November ordered the release of Itaas who has served 32 years, one month, and 12 days of the total 39 years and six months of his sentence.

Under the GCTA, he would be credited with 10,698 days or the equivalent of 29.31 years since his arrest on Aug. 27, 1989.

Muntinlupa RTC Judge Gener Gito had declared invalid a provision in the IRR which said “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage of this Act.“

“It is, however, the view of the Court that the phrase ‘provided, finally, that recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage of this Act cannot be used as justification for the expansion of the exceptions from the benefits provided by RA 10592. This phrase properly pertains only to those accused covered by Article 29 of the RPC – those who are undergoing preventive imprisonment,” Gito said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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