DOJ orders temporary suspension of lower jail time law for good behavior

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 27) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday ordered the temporary suspension of the processing for law that can reduce jail time based on good behavior, a Cabinet official said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he gave the verbal order about the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) as a "precautionary measure and in the interest of prudence," in light of the public outrage on the much talked about early release of former mayor and convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez.

The DOJ said a task force will review the GCTA guidelines, in consultation with the BuCor, Board of Pardons and Parole, and other relevant agencies “to avoid any undue prejudice to the rights of [persons deprived of liberty] who have validly earned GCTAs.”

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said the department hopes to finish reviewing the guidelines within 10 days so the suspension would not affect other inmates.

Guevarra said the DOJ will also ask BuCor for the names of released inmates and look into their records.

"Should there be any sign of fraud or irregularity, I will order a separate probe," he said.

Republic Act 10592 provides that “any convicted prisoner in any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center or any other local jail” is entitled to certain deductions from the period of sentence based good behavior.

The law doubled previous GCTAs and expanded the time allowance for those under preventive imprisonment. The law enacted in 2013 stated that GCTAs are computed based on the following guidelines:

- During the first two years of imprisonment: 20 days of deduction for each month of good behavior

- During the third to the fifth year: a reduction of 23 days for each month of good behavior

- During the sixth until the 10th year: 25 days of deduction for each month of good behavior

- During the 11th and successive years: 30 days of deduction for each month of good behavior

- Another deduction of 15 days for each month of study, teaching or mentoring

Guevarra earlier announced that Sanchez, who was convicted in 1995 for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños students Mary Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez, may be one of the around 11,000 inmates to be released early for good conduct. But he buckled down following the public's reaction.

President Rodrigo Duterte personally blocked the release of Sanchez, saying the good conduct-based sentence reduction policy categorically excluded persons charged with heinous crimes from the benefit of its coverage.

"Nakausap ko si Presidente, talagang sabi nya nga the very night na lumabas ‘yan eh tinawagan niya na si commissioner Faeldon at sinabi nya na agad ang stand nya (not to allow the release)," presidential spokesperson Sal Panelo said on Monday.