Congressman says expanded good conduct law was Senate idea

ONE of the congressmen who authored the Philippines’ controversial good conduct time allowance (GCTA) said the expanded time allowance for convicts was the Senate’s idea. 

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who is among the authors of the bill, said that the House’s proposal was supposed to be limited. 

“Our proposal was limited to counting preventive detention or imprisonment as part of an offender’s sentence if he is convicted. The bill on expanded GCTA came from senators,” he said, referring to House Bill 417 and Senate Bill 3064 — both of which were introduced in the 15th Congress and consolidated to become Republic Act 10592 signed on May 29, 2013 by then president Benigno Aquino III.

According to Rodriguez, he is in favor of the longer good behavior allowance despite it not being part of their bill. He pointed out that “our justice system should be reformative, not retributive.”

“But those convicted of heinous crimes such as murder and rape, like Sanchez, the recidivists, escapees, and those who commit additional crimes while in prison, should not be qualified for GCTA. In fact, the law says so,” he said.

Rodriguez also noted that the victims of such convicts and society in general would be exposed to danger if these offenders were allowed to walk out of prison early.

“All the authorities have to do is to strictly enforce the law, especially the disqualifications for good conduct time allowance,” he said.

The Bill 417, entitled “An Act giving offenders the fullest benefit of preventive imprisonment, amending for the purpose Article 29 of Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code,” was co-authored by then Aurora congressman and now Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, Marlyn Aggabas of Pangasinan, Victor Francisco Ortega of La Union, Eduardo Gullas of Cebu, and Giorgidi Aggabao of Isabela. 

Under the bill, it states that “recidivists, habitual delinquents and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage.”

Senate Bill 3064 was contained in Committee Report No. 82. It was submitted on Nov. 17, 2011 by the committee on justice and human rights, and the committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws.

Eight similar measures on counting the period of detention as part of a prison term and expansion of GCTA as provided in the Revised Penal Code were consolidated by the Senate version.

Then senators Manuel Villar Jr., Francis Escudero and Miriam Defensor Santiago were the authors of the eight measures.

Among those who signed Report No. 82 were the authors’ colleagues Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes IV, Franklin Drilon, Ramon Revilla Jr., Sergio Osmeña III, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino Pimentel III, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Panfilo Lacson, Manuel Lapid, Alan Peter Cayetano, the late Joker Arroyo and Edgardo Angara, Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona III and Vicente Sotto III.

The Senate version, which had the same title “An Act amending Articles 29, 94, 97, 98, and 99 of Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code,” became the basis of RA 10592.

It is under Bill 3064 and the law that senators expanded the GCTA. 

“They were so generous in giving all kinds of good conduct allowances. If all those GCTAs are given, a convict may end up walking out of prison a few days after walking in,” an unnamed congressman told The Philippine Star.

He urged the senators to review the expanded GCTA law, noting that under the present law, a convict is entitled to 20 days of deduction from his sentence if he shows good behavior during the first two years of imprisonment.

“This means that he should be in prison for only 10-11 days each month. From the 11th year onwards, he is allowed 30 days in GCTA, which translates to no prison service or just one day in prison,” he said.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday also create a committee to review the guidelines of the time allowances, after a joint department order directing a 10-day suspension of the GCTA. 

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