Guevarra: DOJ survived GCTA crisis by upholding rule of law

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Thursday, September 26, that for him, the Department of Justice (DOJ) "survived" the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) mess because the department upheld the rule of law.

Calling the issue a "major shock" to the DOJ, Guevarra said: "The DOJ as an institution could have been damaged severely if not ruined because of what happened. However, because we continued to uphold the rule of law, we continued to follow what is right, the DOJ has survived this major institutional crisis."

"And as a matter of fact came [we] out almost unscathed," Guevarra said in his address to DOJ employees Thursday morning for the department's 122nd anniversary.

Guevarra made this statement amid mounting criticism on the DOJ's move to arrest without warrant nearly 2,000 heinous crime convicts who were already freed based on a previous interpretation of the GCTA law.

The DOJ' revision of the law's Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), which now excludes heinous crimes from GCTA, has also been criticized for potential violation of some provisions in the Bill of Rights.

Earlier in the week, a group of lawyers which fought policies of the Arroyo administration reconvened to plan actions against the Duterte government over what it called as major violations of constitutional rights.

"Not since the dark years of Martial Law have our civil liberties and fundamental rights been threatened and blatantly violated with such brazen impunity," said the group called Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL). 

Guevarra did not respond to a request for comment on the reconvening of the group.

More than 2,000 prisoners surrendered to Bilibid, some of them qualified for release but who refused to leave the national penitentiary for fear of a rearrest. 

'DOJ is reborn'

At the DOJ's celebration, Guevarra sounded confident that the justice department under him has enjoyed good reputation, which has been his goal since he took over in 2018 after the scandal-tainted leadership of his predecessor, Vitaliano Aguirre.

"As one senator put it, the present DOJ enjoys a clean public image," Guevarra said.

"So in closing my dear co workers at the DOJ, I just want you to rejoice in our new found strength, newfound public image. I'd like to say the DOJ has been reborn," said the justice chief. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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