The Palace on Sunday said it is not illegal to send back to jail prisoners who were released early on good conduct if they were convicted of heinous crimes.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made this assertion after the former spokesman of the Supreme Court, Theodore Te, warned him that doing so would violate the Constitution and provisions of the Revised Penal Code.
Panelo previously said that inmates convicted for heinous crimes but were granted early freedom under Republic Act 10592 or the good conduct time allowance must be sent back to jail.
Panelo, who is also President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said the law does not apply to those who committed heinous crimes.
“They can be rearrested and sent back [to the state penitentiary],” Panelo said.
But Te, a criminal law professor, said that such an action would violate Article III, Sec. 22 of the 1987 Constitution which provides that “no ex post facto law or bill of attainder shall be enacted.”
Ex post facto law works to the prejudice of an accused such as depriving him of some lawful protection to which he has become entitled.
Te also said Article 99 of the RPC “expressly says that the GCTA, once granted, cannot be revoked and its consequences, once set in place, cannot be reversed.”
“Sending back those who were set free on GCTA, even if they were serving sentences for heinous crimes, would be a retroactive application of the law in a prejudicial manner which is prohibited by the Constitution as an ex post facto application of law,” he said.
Panelo remained firm, however.
“There’s no violation because the law gives conditions by which inmates can avail of the benefit. Since they were given benefit in which they are not qualified, there is no violation,” Panelo said in a radio interview Sunday.
“There’s a law that guides who among the inmates [can possibly be released]. If you are not qualified, your freedom will go against the law,” he added.
From 2014 to early August this year, the Bureau of Corrections quietly released more than 22,000 prisoners including 1,914 inmates who were convicted of murder, rape, drug offenses, parricide, kidnapping and arson.
READ: 4 drug lords freed under GCTA rules
Scandal erupted when news leaked that former Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was serving seven life sentences for the rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of her friend Allan Gomez, might be released early.
READ: Palace: Sanchez ‘not eligible’ for release, Duterte ‘furious’
A Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigation on the BuCor and its chief Nicanor Faeldon begins Monday, Sept. 2.
A Justice department official said Sunday that Bucor has not been transmitting the release orders for inmates convicted of heinous crimes to the office of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for review, as it is required to do under a department order.
READ: Task force to review convicts’ GCTA rules
Justice spokesperson and Undersecretary Markk Perete made the admission after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said release orders for convicts sentenced to life imprisonment need the approval of the Justice secretary.
Perete said the practice in the BuCor was to implement release orders for convicts involved in heinous crimes without prior approval of the Office of the Justice Secretary.