The Senate’s Magic Wand

Republic Act No. 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law can cut short prisoners’ years of sentence. It became controversial when the media realized that one of these prisoners is a rape-slay convict, former Calauan mayor, Antonio Sanchez.

Primarily, as then-Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas signed the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) in 2014, it was prospective in nature. Which means that it can only be applied to those who were sentenced not earlier than 2013 which was the year it was signed to law by then-President Benigno Aquino III.

Now, the gaping hole in the law can be seen in this scenario. Why is it that it cannot be applied to all prisoners? Aren’t laws supposed to be protecting and benefiting for the nation?

I can only agree when Supreme Court Associate Justice, Marvic Leonen, said on a Rappler report that the prospective provision of the 2014 GCTA Law’s 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.”

Such perspective, as it seems, cannot be generated by the legislation for it had to take a series of petitions-in-intervention of the provision from June to October 2014 before the Supreme Court convened to make the law retroactive just this June 2019.

With this recent addition, many loopholes can still be seen on the sentence-cutting law. Imagine that in just the first 2 years of imprisonment, if the inmate behaves for every month, 20 days will be deducted in his or her total sentence. For 3 -5 years of sentence, 23 days can be deducted for each month of good behavior. Sentences that are six to ten years can be deducted of 25 days while 11 years and beyond can receive 1 month deduction. Like what the Cagayan de Oro City Representative Rufus Rodriguez said, “Those are too generous.”

The Senate’s magic wand, it seems, has a manufacturing defect as its Section 1 states “That recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage of this Act” while Section 3 tells us that “The good conduct of any offender qualified for credit for preventive imprisonment (under Section 1)… or of any convicted prisoner in any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center or any other local jail shall entitle him to the following deductions from the period of his sentence.”

We can appreciate that the Senate has been doing revisions and doing their best since this September but we cannot disregard the fact that 120 heinous crime convicts were already released during Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s time as the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief and more than 2,000 were released since 2014. Only more than 350 of them have surrendered when ordered by president Duterte to go back to prison and have their GCTA computed (Jess Diaz on PhilStar).

At the end of the day, we are all just humans, aren’t we? We all commit mistakes. Therefore, we all deserve to be given a chance to correct them and learn from them so we become better versions of ourselves and as a result, contribute as persons of the community. But then again, how can we move freely in a society where the laws are self-contradicting and are just mere drafts of the ideal?


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