By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House Committee on Justice is flexing its muscles to ensure the passage of a bill seeking to amend Republic Act 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law, before Congress adjourns sessions for the month-long Christmas break.
Leyte Rep. Vicente “Ching” Veloso, panel chairman, expressed hope that the amendments to the GCTA Law will be passed, before Congress officially adjourns on December 21.
“We will try to pass this before Christmas break,” he said in an interview.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) earlier endorsed House Bill 4628, principally authored by Veloso as “working draft for simplicity and brevity.”
Veloso, a former Court of Appeals magistrate, said his panel was sticking to its position that the grant of GCTA should be left to the sound discretion of the court which has original jurisdiction over the case.
“The service of sentence is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the court. It issued the warrant of arrest. Service of sentence is an integral part of the exercise of jurisdiction of the criminal court,” he explained.
“Now it is basic that jurisdiction, once acquired, it has to be exercised until the final dertemination of the case, when a criminal case is finally terminated, if the sentence of the convict is fully served. So GCTA being integral part of that should be within the jurisdiction of the court. It is only the court can order the release, not the BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) chief, not the DOJ (Department of Justice) Secretary, it should only be the court which has jurdicition over the case,” Veloso pointed out.
The House leader also stressed that those who were convicted of heinous crimes should not benefit from the GCTA.
“They should not be really benefited by any good conduct time allowance because that is relative because how do you know that they already changed?” he asked.
“The set up is different, the reality is different on the ground. Those who we were convicted of heinous crimes, they are the ones who benefitted from our jails, they were even allowed to have their own quarters,” he said.
Under HB 4628, Veloso proposed to exclude from the benefits of rehabilitative and restorative justice escapees, recidivists and habitual delinquents of grave felonies, and persons convicted twice or more times of a crime punishable by reclusion perpetua.
“Good conduct time allowance should be exclusive concern of the court .At best, the BJMP, BuCor can only recommend because you cannot even transfer detention prisoner from one jail to another without the consent of the court. All the more that we should not be allowed to release a person in good conduct and time allowance without the court’s appreciation of the real fact,” Veloso pointed out.
HB 4628 provides that during the first two years of imprisonment, the convict shall be allowed a deduction of five days for each month of good behavior during detention.
In the third to fifth year, the convict shall be allowed deduction of 10 days; during the following years until the 10th year, 15 days; and during the 11th and successive years of imprisonment, 20 days, the bill said.
Veloso’s bill provides that the court that rendered judgment in the criminal case, upon recommendation of the Director of the Bureau of Corrections, Chief of the BJMP, and/or the Warden of a provincial, district, municipal or city jail shall grant allowances for good conduct unless unlawfully granted, such allowances, once granted shall not be revoked.
Other authors of the GCTA bills are Deputy Speakers Neptali Gonzales II, Luis Raymund ‘LRay’ Villafuerte Jr. and Pablo John Garcia; Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco, ACT-CIS partylist Rep. Eric Go Yap, and Bukidnon Rep. Jonathan Keith Flores.