Leaders of around 39,000 inmates of the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) impleaded as respondents Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas in a petition seeking to strike down as unconstitutional
the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of a recently enacted law amending the classification system for good conduct and time allowances of prisoners.
The petitioners are the heads of the Bilibid Malinis Organization, God’s Marshal Rescuer, Inc., Sputnik Brotherhood Organization, Inc., Geunine Ilocano Group, Batang City Jail International 32, Commando Organization, and the Interfaith Ministry.
The assailed law, Republic Act (RA) 10592, which was made effective on April 18, amends Articles 29, 94, 97, 98 and 99 of the Revised Penal Code. The amendments provided for increased time allowances for good conduct deducted from the period of an inmate’s sentence.
The said organizations, in a 39-page petition filed before the Supreme Court (SC), assailed the IRR of RA 10592 for mandating the prospective application of the law. This means that only convicts imprisoned from the time of the enactment of RA 10592 would benefit from the increased time allowances.
Thus, the group underlined that the cited IRR is unconstitutional because it violates their right to due process.
“The thrust of this petition is that the subject IRR translates RA 10592 as prospective in application. The petitioners believe otherwise for penal law benefiting the accused and inmates shall be retrospective,” the petition reads.
“And if it is so, thousands of inmates should have been given their freedom from the moment the law took effect and even before the issuance of the late IRR. And thousands of inmates should be set free much earlier in the future . . .” the petition further stated.
They stressed that De Lima and Roxas committed grave abuse of discretion when they issued the IRR for RA 10592 which contradicted long standing jurisprudential rules that mandate the retroactive application of penal laws that are beneficial to the accused and inmates.
The group lambasted De Lima and Roxas who allegedly argued that the law should be applied prospectively because the IRR provides for new procedures and standards of behavior for the grant of good conduct time allowances which requires the creation of a Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee in the country’s prisons.
The inmates, thus, asked the SC to issue a writ of preliminary injunction to immediately prohibit De Lima and Roxas from implementing the IRR of RA 10592.
Under the IRR, in the first two years of detention, the inmate shall be allowed a deduction of 20 days (up from five days) or each month of good behavior during detention. For the third to fifth year he shall be allowed a deduction of 23 days (up from eight days) for each month of good behavior. In the succeeding years until the 10th year the prisoner shall be allowed a deduction of 25 days (up from 10 days) for each month of good behavior. In the 11th and successive years of his imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of 30 days (up from 15 days) for each month of good behavior. Moreover, at any time during the period of imprisonment, he shall be allowed another deduction of 15 days, on top of the previously mentioned deductions for each month of study, teaching or mentoring service time rendered.
The law also provides that an appeal undertaken by the inmate to reverse his conviction shall not deprive him of entitlement to the allowances for good conduct.
“It is perplexing why it would be a complexity to the agencies to apply the law retroactively where the records of the inmates are complete and the distinctions between the old law and R.A. 10592 are easily identifiable,” the petitioners noted.