Manuel J. Laserna Jr., Laserna Cueva-Mercader Law Offices, Las Pinas City, Philippines.
Friday, December 16, 2016
Prisoner; Colonist Status; Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) and Special Credit Time Allowance (SCTA)
“x x x.
In 1993, Go was found guilty by the Regional
Trial Court of San Juan City of murder and sentenced to a jail term of
reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years imprisonment. He began serving his
sentence on April 30, 1996 at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
In 2008, Go, along with 24 other inmates, was
given a colonist status. A colonist status is given to an inmate who has served
imprisonment with good conduct for a period equivalent to one fifth of the
maximum term of his prison sentence. It is also given to an inmate whose known
character and credit for work while serving time earned an assignment on trust
basis for more than one year.
Part of the benefit of one with a colonist
status is the automatic reduction of the life sentence to 30 years.
Because of his commuted sentence, on Jan. 30,
2014, Go pleaded for his release by filing a petition for habeas corpus. He
said his original sentence which shall expire on Jan. 31, 2022 expired on
August 2013 because of the deduction of proper allowances for good conduct,
colonist status and preventive imprisonment.
But the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), which
was the petitioner, argued that Go’s sentence neither has expired nor was
commuted. BuCor said the grant of colonist status to Go did not carry with it
the automatic commutation of his sentence from the indivisible penalty of
reclusion perpetua to 30 years because only the President has the power to
commute a sentence. Sans the signature of the President, any commutation is
The lower court ruled in favor of Go saying that
the BuCor Manual is clear that once an inmate is granted a colonist status,
his life sentence is commuted to 30 years.
The RTC added that it is wrong to say that
only the President may commute the service of sentence of a prisoner. It
pointed out that it is wrong to say that partial reduction of sentences is (n0t)
allowed under the Revised Penal Code.
BuCor took the case to the Court of Appeals
but the latter denied its petition and motion for reconsideration. It was then
elevated to the high court.
The high court agreed with the lower court’s
ruling that not only the President but also the Revised Penal Code recognizes
partial reduction or commutation of sentences.
To implement the provisions of the Penal Code,
the high court noted that the Director of Prisons was given the power to grant
good conduct allowances.
“Therefore, after crediting his preventive
imprisonment of nine (9) months and sixteen (16) days, and the regular Good
Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) and Special Credit Time Allowance (SCTA)
granted upon him, Go has completed serving his sentence of 30 years on Aug. 21,
2013,” the high court said.
In 2012, Go again hogged the headlines after
he claimed he was abducted by unidentified persons while at the NBP’s minimum
security area along with his nurse nephew, Clarence Yu. They were later
released in Batangas by their alleged abductors.
currently battling stage four colon cancer. IDL/rga