MANILA The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday asked the government to formally answer a petition filed by New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmates questioning the validity of the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) under Republic Act 10592.
Speaking to reporters in an event at the Manila Hotel, Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin said the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) were given 10 days to file their comments through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
Rule making is internal to the DOJ and we (the SC) do not interfere. But now if the guidelines were already issued and there is a case filed, we have to require the other party, that is the government, to comment through the solicitor general, Bersamin explained.
Justice officials led by Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier welcomed the suit challenging the revised IRRs validity.
In their petition, persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) told the SC that their appeal was in behalf of other prisoners who are similarly situated and would be disadvantaged with the implementation of the new IRR by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
The PDLs' lawyer, Rolito Abing, asked the SC to stop the BuCor and the BJMP from retroactively applying the exclusions introduced under Section 1 and Section 3 of RA 10592.
The petitioners sought the nullification of provisions in the new IRR which exclude recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and those charged with heinous crimes from benefitting from the expanded GCTA, Time allowance for Studying, Teaching and Mentoring (TASTM) and Special Time Allowance for Loyalty (STAL).
Crafted by a joint committee of the DOJ and the DILG, the new IRR also states that heinous crime convicts, who were convicted after the law became effective in 2013, shall not be entitled to any type of GCTA.
The retroactive application of disadvantageous provisions of RA 10592 would work to the prejudice of petitioners and those who are similarly situated. The same would preclude the decrease in the penalty attached to their respective crimes and lengthens their prior stay, they said.
They also claimed the exclusion of disqualified convicts from any GCTA constitute a violation of their right to equal protection of the law.
Assuming arguendo that doubt exists in the interpretation of the law, still the same should be resolved in favor of the offender, they argued.
They added that the deprivation of application of greater GCTA and consequent prolongation of imprisonment of herein, petitioners and those similarly situated constitute violation of their substantive rights.
Absent any showing that they are not eligible for GCTA, they have to be made beneficiaries of the same, regardless of the nature of the crime they were convicted of. They must be accordingly released by the DOJ and BuCor regardless of whether the same will cause public outrage, they stressed.
The petitioners also asked the SC to compel the BuCor and the BJMP to re-compute with reasonable dispatch the time allowances due the petitioners and all those who are similarly situated and, thereafter, to cause their immediate release from imprisonment in case of full service of sentence, unless they are being confined for some other lawful cause.(PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency