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Case Digest: Inmates of the New Bilibid Prison v. De Lima, G.R. Nos. 212719 & 214637, 25 June 25 2019

Inmates of the New Bilibid Prison v. De Lima, G.R. Nos. 212719 & 214637, 25 June 25 2019

TOPIC: Conditions for the Exercise of Judicial Review: Actual Case or Controversy


On May 29, 2013, then President Benigno S. Aquino III signed into law R.A. No. 10592, amending Articles 29, 94, 97, 98 and 99 of Act No. 3815, or the Revised Penal Code (RPC).4 For reference, the modifications are underscored as follows:

ART. 29. Period of preventive imprisonment deducted from term of imprisonment. — Offenders or accused who have undergone preventive imprisonment shall be credited in the service of their sentence consisting of deprivation of liberty, with the full time during which they have undergone preventive imprisonment if the detention prisoner agrees voluntarily in writing after being informed of the effects thereof and with the assistance of counsel to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted prisoners, except in the following cases:

  1. When they are recidivists, or have been convicted previously twice or more times of any crime; and
  2. When upon being summoned for the execution of their sentence they have failed to surrender voluntarily.

If the detention prisoner does not agree to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted prisoners, he shall do so in writing with the assistance of a counsel and shall be credited in the service of his sentence with four-fifths of the time during which he has undergone preventive imprisonment.

Credit for preventive imprisonment for the penalty of reclusion perpetua shall be deducted from thirty (30) years.

Whenever an accused has undergone preventive imprisonment for a period equal to the possible maximum imprisonment of the offense charged to which he may be sentenced and his case is not yet terminated, he shall be released immediately without prejudice to the continuation of the trial thereof or the proceeding on appeal, if the same is under review. Computation of preventive imprisonment for purposes of immediate release under this paragraph shall be the actual period of detention with good conduct time allowance: Provided, however, That if the accused is absent without justifiable cause at any stage of the trial, the court may motu proprio order the rearrest of the accused: Provided, finally, That recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage of this Act. In case the maximum penalty to which the accused may be sentenced is destierro, he shall be released after thirty (30) days of preventive imprisonment.

ART. 94. Partial extinction of criminal liability — Criminal liability is extinguished partially:

  1. By conditional pardon;
  2. By commutation of the sentence; and
  3. For good conduct allowances which the culprit may earn while he is undergoing preventive imprisonment orserving his sentence.

ART. 97. Allowance for good conduct. – The good conduct of any offender qualified for credit for preventive imprisonment pursuant to Article 29 of this Code, or of any convicted prisoner in any penal institution, rehabilitation or detention center or any other local jail shall entitle him to the following deductions from the period of his sentence:

  1. During the first two years of (his) imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of twentydays for each month of good behavior during detention;
  2. During the third to the fifth year, inclusive, of his imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of twenty-threedays for each month of good behavior during detention;
  3. During the following years until the tenth year, inclusive, of his imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of twenty-fivedays for each month of good behavior during detention;
  4. During the eleventh and successive years of his imprisonment, he shall be allowed a deduction of thirtydays for each month of good behavior during detention; and
  5. At any time during the period of imprisonment, he shall be allowed another deduction of fifteen days, in addition to numbers one to four hereof, for each month of study, teaching or mentoring service time rendered.

An appeal by the accused shall not deprive him of entitlement to the above allowances for good conduct.

ART. 98. Special time allowance for loyalty. – A deduction of one fifth of the period of his sentence shall be granted to any prisoner who, having evaded his preventive imprisonment or the service of his sentence under the circumstances mentioned in Article 158 of this Code, gives himself up to the authorities within 48 hours following the issuance of a proclamation announcing the passing away of the calamity or catastrophe referred to in said article. A deduction of two-fifths of the period of his sentence shall be granted in case said prisoner chose to stay in the place of his confinement notwithstanding the existence of a calamity or catastrophe enumerated in Article 158 of this Code.

This Article shall apply to any prisoner whether undergoing preventive imprisonment or serving sentence.

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. (Emphases ours)

Pursuant to the amendatory law, an IRR was jointly issued by respondents Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila M. De Lima and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II on March 26, 2014 and became effective on April 18, 2014.5 Petitioners and intervenors assail the validity of its Section 4, Rule 1 that directs the prospective application of the grant of good conduct time allowance (GCTA), time allowance for study, teaching and mentoring (TASTM), and special time allowance for loyalty (STAL) mainly on the ground that it violates Article 22 of the RPC.6


WON there is actual controversy


Respondents contend that the petition of Edago et al. did not comply with all the elements of justiciability as the requirement of an actual case or controversy vis-a-vis the requirement of ripeness has not been complied with. For them, the claimed injury of petitioners has not ripened to an actual case requiring this Court’s intervention: First, the MSEC has not been constituted yet so there is effectively no authority or specialized body to screen, evaluate and recommend any applications for time credits based on R.A. No. 10592. Second, none of petitioners has applied for the revised credits, making their claim of injury premature, if not anticipatory. And third, the prison records annexed to the petition are neither signed nor certified by the BUCOR Director which belie the claim of actual injury resulting from alleged extended incarceration. What petitioners did was they immediately filed this case after obtaining their prison records and computing the purported application of the revised credits for GCTA under R.A. No. 10592.

We disagree.

It is well settled that no question involving the constitutionality or validity of a law or governmental act may be heard and decided unless the following requisites for judicial inquiry are present: (a) there must be an actual case or controversy calling for the exercise of judicial power; (b) the person challenging the act must have the standing to question the validity of the subject act or issuance; (c) the question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest opportunity; and (d) the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case. As to the requirement of actual case or controversy, the Court stated in Province of North Cotabato, et al. v. Gov’t of the Rep. of the Phils. Peace Panel on Ancestral Domain (GRP), et al.:

The power of judicial review is limited to actual cases or controversies. Courts decline to issue advisory opinions or to resolve hypothetical or feigned problems, or mere academic questions. The limitation of the power of judicial review to actual cases and controversies defines the role assigned to the judiciary in a tripartite allocation of power, to assure that the courts will not intrude into areas committed to the other branches of government.

An actual case or controversy involves a conflict of legal rights, an assertion of opposite legal claims, susceptible of judicial resolution as distinguished from a hypothetical or abstract difference or dispute. There must be a contrariety of legal rights that can be interpreted and enforced on the basis of existing law and jurisprudence, x x x.

Related to the requirement of an actual case or controversy is the requirement of ripeness. A question is ripe for adjudication when the act being challenged has had a direct adverse effect on the individual challenging it. For a case to be considered ripe for adjudication, it is a prerequisite that something had then been accomplished or performed by either branch before a court may come into the picture, and the petitioner must allege the existence of an immediate or threatened injury to itself as a result of the challenged action. He must show that he has sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of the act complained of.


There is an actual case or controversy in the case at bar because there is a contrariety of legal rights that can be interpreted and enforced on the basis of existing law and jurisprudence. Respondents stand for the prospective application of the grant of GCTA, TASTM, and STAL while petitioners and intervenors view that such provision violates the Constitution and Article 22 of the RPC. The legal issue posed is ripe for adjudication as the challenged regulation has a direct adverse effect on petitioners and those detained and convicted prisoners who are similarly situated. There exists an immediate and/or threatened injury and they have sustained or are immediately in danger of sustaining direct injury as a result of the act complained of. In fact, while the case is pending, petitioners are languishing in jail. If their assertion proved to be true, their illegal confinement or detention in the meantime is oppressive. With the prisoners’ continued incarceration, any delay in resolving the case would cause them great prejudice. Justice demands that they be released soonest, if not on time.

There is no need to wait and see the actual organization and operation of the MSEC. Petitioners Edago et al. correctly invoked Our ruling in Pimentel, Jr. v. Hon. Aguirre. There, We dismissed the novel theory that people should wait for the implementing evil to befall on them before they could question acts that are illegal or unconstitutional, and held that “[by] the mere enactment of the questioned law or the approval of the challenged action, the dispute is said to have ripened into a judicial controversy even without any other overt act.” Similar to Pimentel, Jr., the real issue in this case is whether the Constitution and the RPC are contravened by Section 4, Rule 1 of the IRR, not whether they are violated by the acts implementing it. Concrete acts are not necessary to render the present controversy ripe. An actual case may exist even in the absence of tangible instances when the assailed IRR has actually and adversely affected petitioners. The mere issuance of the subject IRR has led to the ripening of a judicial controversy even without any other overt act. If this Court cannot await the adverse consequences of the law in order to consider the controversy actual and ripe for judicial intervention, the same can be said for an IRR. Here, petitioners need not wait for the creation of the MSEC and be individually rejected in their applications. They do not need to actually apply for the revised credits, considering that such application would be an exercise in futility in view of respondents’ insistence that the law should be prospectively applied. If the assailed provision is indeed unconstitutional and illegal, there is no better time than the present action to settle such question once and for all.



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