THE NEW GOOD CONDUCT TIME ALLOWANCE FOR PRISONERS and related DOJ Opinion on the Penal Colonist Status
Last March 18, 2014, Secretary of Justice Leila M. De Lima issued Memorandum (LML-M-18C14-366) clarifying the grant of Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) and Penal Colonist status to prisoners. There were six issues resolved accordingly. First, “a colonist status can only be granted if the sentence of life imprisonment or reclusion perpetual was commuted by the President of the Philippines.” Second, “the duration of reclusion perpetua and life imprisonment is forty (40) years and remains to be a single and indivisible penalty.” Third, “the 30 year period in RA 7659 has no effect on the grant of a colonist status considering that reclusion perpetua is a single and indivisible penalty and its maximum duration is forty (40) years.” Fourth, “ there should be commutation of sentence on life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua before additional GCTA is applied.” Fifth, “subject to the requirement of commutation of sentence by the President, the grant of GCTA will be governed by the original provisions in the Bucor Manual.” And sixth, the Technical Working Group created to draft the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10595 (Bucor Act of 2013) will address the question on the determination of granting and withdrawing the privilege of GCTA and colonist status.
Corollary to the DOJ Memorandum dated March 18, 2014, another DOJ Memorandum Circular dated March 28, 2014 was issued by the Secretary of Justice. It refers to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10592, otherwise known as “An Act Amending Articles 29, 94, 97, 98 and 99 of Act No. 3815, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code, as amended,” or the GCTA Law. The circular mandates that the IRR should take effect “fifteen (15) days after the date of its publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines.” Furthermore, the DOJ Circular directs “Bucor to strictly follow the procedures in the grant of the privilege (new GCTA) and to see to it that each inmate is given a copy of the IRR for their information.”
The IRR for the new GCTA has the following features:
- It should be construed liberally in favour of a detained or convicted prisoner.
- A Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee (MSEC) shall be created to determine the procedures and standards of behaviour for the grant of GCTA and related grants for submission as recommendation to authorities for approval.
- The grant of GCTA and other grants (like STAL and TASTM) shall be PROSPECTIVE in application.
- Aside from GCTA, an inmate stands to be granted Special Time Allowance for Loyalty (STAL) from 1/5 up to 2/5 from his preventive imprisonment or service of sentence; and Time Allowance for Study, Teaching and Mentoring (TASTM) corresponding to 15 days for every month of study or mentoring services.
- Deductible GCTA is based accordingly:
- First 2 years: 20 days off for each month
- Third to fifth year: 23 days off for each month.
- Sixth to tenth year: 25 days off for each month
- Eleventh and successive year: 30 days off for each month
6.“An appeal by the accused shall not deprive him of his entitlement to the time allowance.”
The IRR also defined certain corrective parameters in the administration of inmate documents and its application. Thus:
- Preventive imprisonment by a detainee is credited FULL TIME when there is a Detainee’s Manifestation.
- In the absence of the manifestation, when there is Detainee’s Waiver, the creditable period is four-fifths (4/5) of the time of preventive imprisonment. This means that 80% of his detention is credited in his record.
- GCTA has been included in the enumeration under partial extinction of criminal liability.
- Those authorized to grant time allowances are the following:
- Director of Corrections
- Chief, BJMP
- Wardens, Provincial, District, City or Municipal Jail
From hereon, the Corrective Services of the country (through Department of Justice and Department of Interior and Local Government) will have to incorporate and prepare a new manual for the application of said new GCTA law. Without “faithful compliance”, a corrective officer stands to be penalized for one year imprisonment, fine of P100,000.00 and perpetual disqualification to hold office.
Fact: New Bilibid Prison maximum security camp was built in the 1940s and could ideally house an accommodation level for 5,000 prisoners—7,000 at the most as peak. To date, it is a confinement facility of 13,000 inmates—an almost 130 percent congestion rate from the ideal base.
Additional Fact: Confined in this 9 hectare facility are those who were sentenced to more than 20 years up to Life Imprisonment. Lifers constitute almost 70% of the prison population in the entire camp. When death penalty has not been abolished yet, the area was better known as a camp where a dormitory was devoted as Death Row.
Cases of those classified to serve time in this compound range from Kidnapping to Robbery with Homicide, Murder to Plunder, Violation of Drug Laws to Rape. Detested acts, which are defined in the Revised Penal Code and related special laws, would find flesh and blood inside the four walls.
With the kind of characters, background and type of offenses that denizens have presumed to exude; the facility could easily earn the title as the most fearsome if not the most dangerous corner of our society.
How to sustain and preserve peace in this kind of environment even for a day is already considered a miraculous act. Here is a situation when abnormality must rule the day. When exemption from the tenet of good housekeeping could rule the day.
Having a peaceful period in the crowd considered by law as predatory is almost an impossible situation. For how can one consider as normal a peaceful situation in a place filled to the brim. To think of harmony in this blight spot is already wishful thinking.
But miracles do happen. For the last few years, this camp, the maximum wing of the National Penitentiary seldom would hear of violence of great proportion. Riots, which were normal occurrence before has never visited a curve in the facility. Peace reign and serenity at nighttime is becoming ordinary.
There were pockets of troubles every now and then but the frequency is greater in the market place or some streets in the free community than in this exclusive enclave. Indeed, the prison facility is house to killers and pillagers; and, no one can claim a better killer or pillager than anybody inside.
Peace and harmony can be obtained even the most forsaken place but there is so much compromise to be offered. Like an emergency patient facing an extreme medical condition, abnormal dosages are administered and other out of the box approaches dispensed with to save the patient from fatal end. In a terribly congested facility like those in other countries, the same tactic can also be employed.
In Philippine prison settings, allowing entry of appliance, while a no-no, at times are resorted to in reducing the tension brought about by overcrowding. Loud blaring sounds, normally a very disturbing condition in the free community, are an accepted intervention medium that drowns collective emotional difficulties. Entry of visitors, mostly family members conditions peace and public safety. One is reminded that crimes are mostly performed as a dedicated act in the name of love for family. One kills to protect his family. One robs to improve family life. Having all these around normalizes an abnormal condition.
Again in the on-going investigation of the PDAF scam: What was pocketed by corrupt government officials intended to benefit the greater masses, could have been dedicated to the exploration of oil—which could have lowered the cost of commodities. It could have modernized the armed forces of the country, improved the criminal justice administration, from an increased professional support to law enforcement, prosecution, courts and correction. Sent all children to school, treated all patients in hospitals and sustained all commercial activities from manufacturing to production.
The country could have leveled with Singapore if not Japan.
This could have been done using those funds, which were lost to corruption in the past 10 years. No matter how jubilant government is in projecting a robust economy, if government officials would corner these resources, the people would remain poor and in the state of penury forever.
The prison community welcomes these corrupt elements for an absolute cleansing process.