Playing Devil’s Advocate
THIS is purely for academic discussion. I know it is unpopular but I also believe that an objective analysis is in order so that we can better determine the deficiencies in the law and what changes are needed to prevent its abuse.
If you were the counsel for Mr. Antonio Sanchez, how would you justify the validity of the grant of Good Conduct Time Allowances (GCTA) and his release by reason thereof?
POINT 1. The exclusion of those convicted of heinous crimes in RA 10592 should not apply to him. Why?
a. Mr. Sanchez was convicted PRIOR to the effectivity of RA 10592 and the exclusion of those convicted of heinous crimes was NOT in the Revised Penal Code before RA 10592 and it is a basic legal principle that new laws, or portions thereof, that are prejudicial to an accused should not be given retroactive effect. Otherwise, it would violate the constitutional provision against “ex post facto” laws.
b. The exclusion is found in the LAST paragraph of Section 1 of R.A. 10592, which amends Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code which is on “PERIOD OF PREVENTIVE IMPRISONMENT DEDUCTED FROM TERM OF IMPRISONMENT” and NOT on the deduction of GCTA from the sentence of those already convicted. That last paragraph reads: "Whenever an accused has undergone preventive imprisonment for a period equal to the possible maximum imprisonment of the offense charged to which he may be sentenced and his case is not yet terminated, he shall be released immediately without prejudice to the continuation of the trial thereof or the proceeding on appeal, if the same is under review. Computation of preventive imprisonment for purposes of immediate release under this paragraph shall be the actual period of detention with good conduct time allowance: Provided, however, That if the accused is absent without justifiable cause at any stage of the trial, the court may motu proprio order the rearrest of the accused: Provided, finally, THAT RECIDIVISTS, HABITUAL DELINQUENTS, ESCAPEES AND PERSONS CHARGED WITH HEINOUS CRIMES ARE EXCLUDED FROM THE COVERAGE OF THIS ACT. In case the maximum penalty to which the accused may be sentenced is lestierro, he shall be released after thirty (30) days of preventive imprisonment."
c. Since the exclusion of those convicted of heinous crimes appears to be only as to Article 29 of the RPC, as amended, it is arguable that it should not apply to the grant of GCTA under Article 97 of the RPC, as amended, which is covered by a separate article of the RPC and which was amended in Section 3, or a separate Section, of RA 10592
POINT 2. The grant or denial of GCTA is on a month to month basis, not wholesale and, once granted, is not revocable.
a. Under Article 97 of the RPC, even as amended by RA 10592, the grant of GCTA is for every month of good conduct, which is simply compliance with prison rules and regulations. In other words, even if Mr. Sanchez had been found violating the law or prison rules, he would be denied allowances ONLY for the months he was caught violating prison rules. It also appears that he was not convicted of violating the Dangerous Drugs Act (Why this was, I really don’t know)
b. Article 99 of the RPC, as amended by RA 10592, provides “ART. 99. Who grants time allowances. – Whenever lawfully justified, the Director of the Bureau of Corrections, the Chief of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and/or the Warden of a provincial, district, municipal or city jail shall grant allowances for good conduct. SUCH ALLOWANCES ONCE GRANTED SHALL NOT BE REVOKED."
c. Before the amendment, it provided “Article 99. Who grants time allowances. - Whenever lawfully justified, the Director of Prisons shall grant allowances for good conduct. SUCH ALLOWANCES ONCE GRANTED SHALL NOT BE REVOKED.”
d. What is coming out in the news now shows that, apparently, Mr. Sanchez had already been granted GCTA and applying these provisions, original and amended, the grant CANNOT BE REVOKED.
POINT 3. Despite the multiple sentences of reclusion perpetua, the maximum imprisonment is still limited to 40 years
a. Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code is very clear on the fact that convicts with multiple sentences will be imprisoned only for the period of three (3) times the highest sentence NOT TO EXCEED FORTY (40) YEARS.
b. Thus, even if Mr. Sanchez was sentenced to NINE (9) PENALTIES of reclusion perpetua, the maximum imprisonment is still limited to 40 years and it is against this maximum period that the GCTA granted to him should be deducted.
In view of all the foregoing, it seems that, under the present law, Mr. Sanchez, despite his horrific crimes and multiple sentences, as well as the publicized violations of prison rules, would still be entitled to the GCTA that he had already been granted.
The situation loudly calls for necessary amendments
to the law to:
a. Make it clear that “RECIDIVISTS, HABITUAL DELINQUENTS, ESCAPEES AND PERSONS CHARGED WITH HEINOUS CRIMES” are not entitled to GCTA period, NO Ifs or BUTs about it.
b. The exclusion should also apply to bar GCTA for those convicted and sentenced to two (2) or more penalties of reclusion perpetua.
c. GCTA already granted should be subject to revocation in the event of serious violations of prison rules and regulations and other penal laws.
d. The offended parties should be entitled to notice of the grant of GCTA so that they could complain in the event that such allowances are illegally granted.
Unfortunately, even if these amendments are made, basic legal principles would dictate that they can only apply prospectively.
Again, my caveat, this is only for purposes of academic discussion. I am certainly not siding with Mr. Sanchez and if were just up to me, I would vote to have him rot in jail.