Republic Act 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law should not be amended since it was the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), which key Cabinet members of the previous administration created, that should be blamed for the mess that resulted from it, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said.
Enrile was referring to detained Sen. Leila de Lima who was then Justice secretary and erstwhile Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Manuel Roxas II.
Enrile, who was the leader of the Senate when the GCTA Law was passed, explained that the law excluded all detainees who have committed heinous crimes, but this was totally reversed through the IRR, crafted by De Lima and Roxas.
Enrile aired his side on the GCTA mess in an ambush interview after the necrological service of the late Sen. Rene Espina at the Senate yesterday morning.
“If I remember correctly Section 1 of that law, it explicitly excluded among others heinous crime as within the coverage of that good conduct allowance. I don’t know if it became a problem. I understand the problem that happened was that the IRR, instead of respecting Section 1 of the amendatory law, included heinous crimes. But that was excluded from the law,” Enrile said in an interview.
“I cannot remember the details now, but I am very certain that the law that I signed as Senate President that went to Malacañang to be signed by the President of the Philippines excluded all those persons charged with heinous crimes,” he added.
Roxas insisted otherwise
Roxas, however, claimed before the Ombudsman there is nothing irregular in the IRR of the GCTA Law as he asserted that it reflected the provisions of RA 10592.
“The IRR is worded, to the greatest extent practicable, in a manner consistent with the law it implements,” Roxas stressed.
He said Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code, which was amended by RA 10592, excludes from those who could benefit from the law recidivists, those who have been previously convicted twice or more times, and those who failed to surrender voluntarily.
Rule IV of Section 3 of the IRR provides for the same, he said.
Roxas stressed the provision that disqualifies heinous crimes convicts from benefitting from the law is not missing in the IRR.
“If you go through the entire IRR, you will find that all of the said disqualifications may all be found in Rule IV, Section 6,” he said.
“What is clear, then, is that all disqualifications about which you have inquired are all in the IRR. All four disqualifications were included in the rules and none of them are missing as alleged by many commentators in recent days,” he averred.
Void from start
Enrile, who is also a veteran lawyer, maintained senators at that time reviewed all the provisions of the GCTA Law before they signed it. He also expressed the belief that the inclusion of those charged with heinous crimes under the IRR is unconstitutional.
“The addition of heinous crime in the IRR is unconstitutional, non-existent, void ab initio. Whoever did that should answer for all of these problems. And then, the case of (Nicanor) Faeldon, I don’t know what he is charged for, but as an implementor of the law, he has to be guided by the IRR. He is not a lawyer. The ones that should be made responsible are those people who made that IRR,” he explained.
I understand the problem that happened was that the IRR, instead of respecting Section 1 of the amendatory law, included heinous crimes.
Enrile added that Roxas and De Lima “don’t deserve their positions” in the Cabinet, and they should be “disqualified from holding public office forever.”
The former lawmaker also backed the revision of the IRR to make sure that it will conform to the law, but pointed out it should not be amended.
Enrile suggested that an amendment should be introduced in the Revised Penal Code (RPC), which should include the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) in the process of reviewing the list of prisoners who are eligible to be released upon the application of the GCTA.
After the BPP, the Office of the President should also be the final approving authority in the release of prisoners.
For the rearrest of the 1,914 convicts released under the GCTA Law, Enrile said they should surrender as they are considered as renegades.
He added that a warrant of arrest is no longer needed since they were freed due to the wrong application of the law.
Truckloads of proof
Records of inmates or “carpetas” contained in 34 crates from the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) were sent to the Senate yesterday, which will be sifted through to determine which among the released convicts were not entitled to the GCTA Law.
Employees of BuCor transmitted the boxes containing inmates’ records to the Senate Justice and Human Rights committee after Sen. Richard Gordon issued a subpoena compelling the officials to submit all records of the detainees during the previous investigation.
But Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the committee has yet to check the documents the BuCor transmitted to the panel.
“Well, the documents that we received today will show us the listing of those who should be surrendering,” Sotto said in an ambush interview.
Free qualified inmates
For his part, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said the government will free those who are eligible as long as their records are complete and sufficient.
Go said the investigation will continue on Thursday and they will be inviting Baguio City Mayor Benjie Magalong to testify before the panel.
Magalong told the Daily Tribune that he will attend the probe. He said that he will not present additional witnesses in the investigation, but he encouraged all those who are aware of the anomalies inside the BuCor to expose it.
“From my end, there’s none, but if ever they want to speak, as long as it is true, I am more than willing to hear you in all confidentiality and we will secure you,” Go said.
Sotto also bared that suspended BuCor Legal chief Frederic Santos and Documents and Records chief Ramoncito Roque were supposed to testify last Thursday, but they had a change of heart.