By Jeffrey Damicog
Thirteen inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), who testified against detained Senator Leila De Lima, could benefit from the Supreme Court (SC) ruling which further reduces prison terms.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made this admission amid concerns that the 13 NBP inmates could be rewarded early release in exchange for testifying on the alleged illegal drugs involvement of De Lima, who has been an outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Last June, the SC issued a ruling concerning the 2014 implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10592, the law which amended provisions of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) regarding the deduction of prison terms.
The SC agreed with petitioners, which included inmates of the NBP, that the implementation of RA 10592 should be retroactive, and include Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) accumulated by prisoners prior to the establishment of the law in 2013.
”Everyone imprisoned by final judgment before 2013 is entitled to a recomputation of GCTAs earned if any,” Guevarra pointed out.
If any of the inmates who testified against De Lima qualify, Guevarra said “they too will be released.”
“The reduced sentence is a reward for good conduct, not for any other reason,” Guevarra stressed.
De Lima is facing three drug charges before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) concerning her alleged involvement in the proliferation of illegal drugs trading at the NBP.
She already asked the Court of Appeals (CA) not to allow the 13 inmates from testifying against her at the RTC, namely, German Agojo, Nonilo Arile, Jojo Baligad, Joel Capones, Peter Co, Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Durano, Rodolfo Magleo, Noel Martinez, Jaime Patcho, Vicente Sy, Hans Tan, and Froilan Trestiza.
The same inmates also testified before the House of Representatives back in 2016 when an inquiry was made concerning the drug allegations against De Lima.
Even back then, concerns were raised that the 13 inmates might be rewarded with the release in exchange for testifying against De Lima.