CASE BrieF NO. 2001-0881

CASE: City Warden of the Manila City Jail vs. Raymond S. Estrella et. al. [G.R. No. 141211. August 31, 2001.]

PONENTE: Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza

SUBJECT:

  1. Revised Penal Code:
    i. Good Conduct Time Allowance – Who grants
  2. New Civil Code:
    i. Repeal of laws – Repeal by implications

It is the Director of the Prisons (now Bureau of Corrections) who shall grant allowances for good conduct if such good conduct has been observed by the prisoner concerned.”


FACTS:

In celebration of Law Day on September 18, 1999, IBP volunteer lawyers and law students visited various jails in Metro Manila. In the City Jail of Manila, they found thirty-four (34) prisoners (Estrella et. al.), whom they believed were entitled to be released after deducting time allowances for good conduct in the service of their respective sentences.

Consequently, Estrella et. al.asked Rosendo M. Dial, City Warden of the Manila City Jail, to effect their release on the ground that they had already served their sentences, less time allowances for good conduct invoking Arts. 97 and 99 of the Revised Penal Code (Note: these Articles were amended by RA 10592) which provide:

ART. 97. Allowance for good conduct. — The good conduct of any prisoner in any penal institution shall entitle him to the following deduction from the period of his sentence:

1. During the first two years of his imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of five days for each month of good behavior; 

2. During the third to the fifth year, inclusive, of his imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of eight days for each month of good behavior;

3. During the following years until the tenth year, inclusive, of his imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of ten days for each month of good behavior; and

4. During the eleventh and successive years of his imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of fifteen days for each month of good behavior.

ART 99. Who grants time allowances. — Whenever lawfully justified, the Director of Prisons shall grant allowances for good conduct. Such allowances once granted shall not be revoked.

However, City Warden denied the request of Estrella et. al. on the ground that only the Director of the Bureau of Corrections can grant them allowances for good conduct under Art. 99 of the Revised Penal Code. Nonetheless, on October 11, 1999, City Warden issued certifications of good behavior to Estrella et. al. stating that had Estrella et. al. been credited time allowances for good conduct, they should have already been released.

Thereafter, Estrella et. al., represented by the IBP National Committee on Legal Aid, filed in the Supreme Court a petition for habeas corpus.

The Supreme Court issued the writ of habeas corpus which it made returnable to the Regional Trial Court, Manila. In his return, City Warden, through the Solicitor General, opposed the release of Estrella et. al., arguing that while the Director of the Bureau of Corrections no longer exercises authority over city and municipal prisoners, he remains the sole authority under Art. 99 of the Revised Penal Code who can grant time allowances for good conduct to prisoners.

It turned out that 22 of the 34 prisoners had already been released.

The RTC ruled that the Bureau of Corrections, no longer has the authority to grant good conduct time allowances to inmates in the provincial, city, and municipal jails (like Estrella et. al.) in view of the enactment of R.A. No. 6975, otherwise known as the Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990, which places provincial, city, and municipal jails under the supervision and control of the Bureau of Jail Management.


Hence petition for review on certiorari was filed by the Solicitor General. 

The Solicitor General contends that despite changes in the organizational structure of the prison system, the Director of the Bureau of Corrections remains the exclusive authority for granting good conduct time allowances and, therefore, it was error for the lower court to order the release of Estrella et. al. on the basis of certifications issued by the City Warden as to time allowances for good conduct that Estrella et. al. are entitled to. 


ISSUES:

A.       Whether there is inconsistency between Art. 99 of the RPC and R.A. No. 6975.
B.       Who has authority to grant good conduct time allowances, the City Warden or the Bureau of Corrections?
C.      Whether the RTC may rely on the certification of the City Warden as to good conduct time allowances in ordering the release of prisoners by writ of habeas corpus

RULING:
A.       There is no inconsistency between Art. 99 of the RPC and R.A. No. 6975.

Repeals by implication are not favored. To the contrary, every statute must be so interpreted and brought in accord with other laws as to form a uniform system of jurisprudence. Interpretare et concordare leqibus est optimus interpretendi. For there to be an implied repeal, there must be a clear showing of repugnance. The language used in the later statute must be such as to render it irreconcilable with what has been formerly enacted. An inconsistency that falls short of that standard does not suffice.

B.       In Kabigting v. Director of Prisons (G.R. No. L-12276, Aug. 26, 1958),  it was held that in habeas corpus proceedings, the trial court has no power to grant the petitioner time allowances for good conduct” in accordance with Article 99 of the Revised Penal Code it is the Director of the Prisons (now Bureau of Corrections) who shall grant allowances for good conduct if such good conduct has been observed by the prisoner concerned.” In People v. Tan (19 SCRA 433 (1967)), it was emphatically held that a provincial warden cannot grant credit for good conduct to a prisoner and order his release because Art. 99 of the Revised Penal Code vests the authority to grant prisoners good conduct time allowances “exclusively in the Director and no one else.” In that case, the prisoner was under the supervision and control of the provincial warden, but the authority of the Director to grant good conduct time allowances was upheld. Indeed, there is nothing in R.A. No. 6975 which repeals Art. 99 of the Revised Penal Code.

C.       The RTC committed an error in ordering the release of Estrella et. al. on the basis of the certification issued by the City Warden in view of Art. 99 of the Revised Penal Code vesting the authority to grant good conduct time allowances solely in the Bureau of Corrections. 

In the first place, the certifications issued by the City Warden lacked data on the dates when Estrella et. al. started serving sentence. Such data are important because, as has been observed, good conduct time allowances under Art. 97 may only be earned by prisoners while serving their sentence. While Art. 29 of the Revised Penal Code provides that time spent in preventive imprisonment shall be credited in full or four-fifths in service of sentence, it does not say that the prisoners shall earn the credit for good behavior under Art. 97 during such period of preventive detention.

In view of the foregoing, the Court is constrained to order the re-arrest of Estrella et. al. This can be done without placing them in double jeopardy of being punished for the same offense because their re-incarceration is merely a continuation of the penalties that they had not completely served due to the invalid crediting of good conduct time allowances in their favor.

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THINGS DECIDED:

A) Repeals by implication are not favored. To the contrary, every statute must be so interpreted and brought in accord with other laws as to form a uniform system of jurisprudence.

B) A provincial warden cannot grant credit for good conduct to a prisoner and order his release because Art. 99 of the Revised Penal Code vests the authority to grant prisoners good conduct time allowances “exclusively in the Director and no one else.” (Please note of the amendments made by RA 10592)

*** By virtue of RA 10592 Article 99 of the RPC now reads:

“ART. 99. Who grants time allowances. – Whenever lawfully justified, the Director of the Bureau of Corrections, the Chief of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and/or the Warden of a provincial, district, municipal or city jail shall grant allowances for good conduct. Such allowances once granted shall not be revoked.”

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