Supreme Court orders DOJ to answer case vs GCTA IRR

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to submit its answer to the recently-filed petition that sought to invalidate the new Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.

"I am the chair of that particular deliberation now, we gave time to comment," Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin told reporters on Thursday, October 3.

A group of heinous crime inmates from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) filed the petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court, arguing that the DOJ's new IRR was "tantamount to executive legislation."

There is a debate over the text of the law and whether it excluded heinous crimes from the benefits of the GCTA. Some of the law's authors, like former senator Chiz Escudero, said they intended to include heinous crimes in the GCTA benefits in keeping up with the philosophy of reformative justice.

With a tall order from Malacañang, the DOJ revised the IRR to exclude heinous crimes, which the petition argued was executive legislation.

The new IRR also had the effect of applying old GCTA benefits to heinous crime convicts before the law's effectivity in 2013, where as heinous crime convicts after 2013 cannot benefit from any type of GCTA.

The petition said this violated the constitutional guarantee to equal protection.

Bersamin said they were still unsure if they would call for oral arguments.

"After we have determined from the initial comments and all other material that they have submitted [and] there is a need for us to hear the parties [then we would decide] because oral argument is intended to sharpen the issues," said Bersamin.

The DOJ has earlier said it was "confident" that their new IRR will stand legal scrutiny.

"I have as much interest as anyone in knowing the correct legal interpretation. Only the Supreme Court has the final word on the issue. And I hope that it will affirm mine," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had said. – 

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 or tweet @lianbuan.