The Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted an ocular inspection of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Maximum Security Complex, which currently has a congestion rate of 35%. (File photo by TETCH TORRES-TUPAS / INQUIRER.net)

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that the Department of Justice (DOJ) exceeded its power in excluding persons convicted of heinous crimes from the benefits of the Expanded Good Conduct Time Act (GCTA) (Republic Act No. 10592).

The Expanded GCTA Law increased the reward for the time that is reduced to the prison sentence of a person deprived of liberty (PDL).

However, several provisions of the 2019 Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) issued by the DOJ excluded GCTA repeat offenders, habitual offenders, fugitives, and those convicted of heinous crimes from the benefit.

READ: DOJ, DILG complete, sign revised IRR of GCTA law

READ: The bad and the ugly of the good conduct law

Recidivists are persons who, at the time of their trial for a crime, were previously convicted by a final judgment for another crime under the same title of the Revised Penal Code.

On the other hand, a habitual offender is a person who, within 10 years after release from prison or last conviction for battery, robbery, theft, estafa and forgery, is found guilty of a similar crime for the third time.

The SC pointed out that Article 97 of the Revised Penal Code, which was amended by the Expanded GCTA law, “is clear that any convicted inmate is entitled to the GCTA as long as the inmate is in any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center or any other local prison.”

The SC made the decision after Bilibid inmates challenged the legality of specific provisions of the IRR.

The DOJ and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) revised the IRR in 2019 following reports that former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was sentenced to nine terms of life imprisonment, would be released from prison on good conduct.

Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director Gregorio Pio Catapang previously said that allowing PDLs convicted of heinous crimes to benefit from the GCTA could reduce the prison population by about 10,000 to 15,000.


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