Release prisoners who have served jail terms unless further detention is warranted by law

Published August 5, 2022, 9:20 AM

by Rey Panaligan 

Supreme Court (SC)

The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the immediate release of prisoners who have served their jail terms even without release orders from the courts, unless they are being held further for other lawful cause.

“Any further delay in the release from imprisonment of a person deprived of liberty (PDL), except for reasons allowed by law, is nothing but unjust,” stated the circular issued last Thursday, Aug. 4, by SC Court Administrator Raul B. Villanueva.

Villanueva said the circular was issued when several government agencies “have expressed concerns over delays” in securing release orders from courts for PDLs who have served their jail terms and the delays also “delayed the release of PDLs from imprisonment.”

The circular issued to all trial courts also stated:

“Considering Release Orders are not necessary for the extinguishment of criminal liability and have no bearing on a PDL’s completion of his/her sentence of imprisonment, all first and second level courts need not issue any Release Order for a PDL who has (a) completed his/her service of sentence and (b) when there is no other lawful reason for him/her to stay incarcerated.”

Also to be released immediately once the jail term is served and no other lawful cause for detention are:

“Those who have not yet paid the fine which forms part of the penalty of the crime committed and for which the court did not order any subsidiary imprisonment in case of non-payment thereof.

“Those who have unresolved applications for probation, or who may have later moved for the withdrawal thereof.

“Those who have charged under Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and have not yet undergone rehabilitation and the drug dependency examination as may be required by the court, the completion of which shall be subject further action of the proper authorities.”

The circular directed all trial courts to require government agencies or local government units (LGUs)which have custody over the PDLs, who have pending cases, to submit regular reports at least a week before the expiration of the prisoners’ jail terms.

In their reports, the agencies and LGUs should also state the reason for the inability to undergo rehabilitation or drug dependency examination so that the courts “may determine the next course of action to be taken, but which shall in no case result in an extension of the incarceration of the PDL.”

But the circular emphasized: “Courts have to take note that the submission, delay or non-submission of the subject report and their action thereon should in no way hamper the immediate release of the PDL who completed his/her jail time.”