The threefold rule in serving multiple jail terms

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My brother was accused and was sentenced by the court for the four crimes he allegedly committed. Considering the length of the prison time he needs to serve as penalty for each of his crimes, our family was worried that we won’t be able to see him again as he will spend the rest of his life in prison. However, one of the court personnel said that my brother will not have to serve all of the sentences completely because of the threefold rule. What exactly is that and how can it help my brother? Thank you!

Dear Wichita,
The threefold rule is a law on the service of prison sentence which provides that a prisoner with multiple penalties shall not stay longer than threefold of the most severe penalty imposed upon him.  This rule is embodied in Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), which states that:

“Article 70. Successive service of sentences—When the culprit has to serve two or more penalties, he shall serve them simultaneously if the nature of the penalties so permits; otherwise, the following rules shall be observed:

“In the imposition of penalties, the order of their respective severity shall be followed so that they may be executed successively and as nearly as possible, should a pardon have been granted as to the penalty or penalties first imposed, or should they have been served out.
“Notwithstanding the provisions of the rule next preceding, the maximum duration of the convict’s sentence shall not be more than threefold the length of time corresponding to the most severe of the penalties imposed upon him. No other penalty to which he may be liable shall be inflicted after the sum total of those imposed equals the same maximum period.

“Such maximum period shall in no case exceed 40 years.

“In applying the provisions of this rule the duration of perpetual penalties (pene perpetua) shall be computed at 30 years.”

This cited provision states that those who have been sentenced to suffer two or more penalties of imprisonment for the same or various offenses shall have to serve their sentences successively according to the respective severity of the penalties imposed.  Thus, the convicted felon shall first serve out the most severe of the penalties imposed upon him.  Through the threefold rule, the law provides a limitation to the time to be spent by a felon convicted of two or more offenses wherein the prisoner shall not stay longer than threefold of the most severe penalty imposed upon him.

Therefore, to determine the maximum amount of time to be served by the prisoner, the maximum term for each sentence imposed upon the felon must be added. The sum then shall be compared to the threefold of the most severe penalty to be served out by the prisoner; and the prisoner shall serve out the lesser of the two but in no case shall it exceed a period of forty (40) years.

Thus, this provision will benefit your brother if the sum total of all the penalties imposed upon him is more than the threefold of the most severe penalty imposed upon him.  As a result, the actual length of time to be spent by your brother in jail may be lessened.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to


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