The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal two release two convicted drug traffickers from the New Bilibid Prison, saying people convicted of heinous crimes are not entitled to the benefits of Republic Act 10592 or the Expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance Law.
In a decision written by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda, the high court’s Third Division said the 2019 Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. 10592, which were issued by the Justice and Interior departments, remain valid unless declared void by it.
“The rules and regulations issued by the administrative bodies to interpret the law that they are entrusted to enforce, such as the 2019 IRR issued by the DOJ and the DILG, have the force of law and are entitled to great respect,” the high court said.
“Administrative issuance partake of the nature of a statute and have in their favor a presumption of legality. As such, courts cannot ignore administrative issuances especially when, as in this case, its validity was not put in issue. Unless an administrative order is declared invalid, courts have no option but to apply the same.”
With the ruling, the high court dismissed the petition filed on behalf of Raymundo Reyes and Vincent Evangelista, who were convicted for the illegal sale of 974.12 grams of shabu in 2001.
Their conviction was affirmed by the high court in a decision dated Sept. 27, 2007.
Lawyer Rubee Ruth Cagasca-Evagelista, wife of Vincent and counsel for both petitioners, said the abolition of the death penalty and the repeal of the death penalty law or RA 7659, the penalty for the illegal sale of drugs should be reverted to what was originally imposed under R.A. 6425, or the Dangerous Drugs Act, which imposes reclusion perpetua to six years and one day to 12 years.
According to the petitioner, both Reyes and Evangelista have already served 19 years and two months, or more than 18 years if the benefit of the GCTA under R.A. 10592 was to be considered.
The lawyer insisted that, with the benefit of the GCTA, which may be applied retroactively, both Reyes and Evangelista had already served more than the required sentence imposed by law.
But the high court said the people convicted of heinous crimes were not entitled to its benefits.
“Accordingly, the writ cannot be issued and the discharge of Reyes and Evangelista from imprisonment should not be authorized,” the high court said.
A class suit was filed before the high court in September last year on behalf of the inmates of the NBP affected by the revision of the provisions of the IRR of the expanded GCTA.
The convicted inmates asked the high court to stop the Bureau of Corrections from retroactively applying the exclusions introduced under Section 1 and Section 3 of R.A. 10592 or the expanded GCTA.
In a ruling released in June, the high court declared that the expanded law should be applied retroactively.
The petitioners, in particular, are seeking the nullification of the provisions of the new IRR, which exclude recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and those charged with heinous crimes from benefitting from the expanded GCTA, Time allowance for Studying, Teaching and Mentoring and Special Time Allowance for Loyalty,
The implementation of the expanded GCTA became controversial after it was reported that Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez was already eligible for release owing to the retroactive implementation of R.A. 10592.
Sanchez was convicted in the controversial slay-rape case of UP Student Eileen Sarmenta and for the killing of her boyfriend Allan Gomez in 1993.
The reports about his release triggered public outrage, prompting the DOJ and the DILG to come up with a revised IRR for R.A. 10592.
The controversy also pressed the President to sack then BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon for the premature release of heinous crime convicts from the NBP due to the erroneous application of the expanded GCTA.