“favorabilia sunt amplianda adiosa restrigenda”
No. That is not a spell from from J.K. Rolling’s novels. It is in fact a concept in criminal law being adhered to by the Philippines. It means that penal laws which are favorable to the accused shall be applied retroactively. Generally, the application of laws is prospective, meaning- they will only take effect after they are enacted. So if a new law is enacted today penalizing swearing in public, a person cannot be convicted for his swearing yesterday. This same principle applies if a new law increases the penalty of a certain crime for example, from reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua. The increased penalty will not apply if the act was committed before the effectivity of the new law. One of the exceptions to this principle is when the new law favors the accused such as when it imposes a lighter penalty to a certain crime. Even if committed years ago, the new law if favorable will apply to the accused. This is one of the related issues in the on going GCTA (R.A. No. 10592) scandal. The issue on retroactive application of penal laws favorable laws to the accused was tackled in a decision of the Supreme Court promulgated last June 2019.
Inmates vs. Secretary of Justice et., al.
“/T/he grant of good conduct time allowance under Republic Act No. 10592 shall be prospective in application” (Section 4, Rule 1 of the IRR of the GCTA Law). This provision was the main issue in the case filed by certain inmates who were found to be ineligible for the application of the GCTA to them. The inmates claim that since the GCTA is a law favorable to the accused, it should be retroactively applied to them and this provision of the IRR should be declared unconstitutional or invalid for barring the retroactive application of the law. In this case the Supreme Court had to settle the issue of whether the GCTA Law is considered a “penal law” in order for its retroactive application.
GCTA is a Penal Law
The Supreme Court agreed with the inmates that the GCTA Law is a penal law and therefore should have retroactive application. The SC said: “While R.A. No. 10592 does not define a crime/offense or provide/prescribe/establish a penalty as it addresses the rehabilitation component of our correctional system, its provisions have the purpose and effect of diminishing the punishment attached to the crime.” (G.R. No. 212719 & G.R. No. 214637, 25 June 2019) It is the claim of the inmates that R.A. 10592 is a penal law because its provisions have become integral parts of the Revised Penal Code. If a new law makes the penalty under the Revised Penal Code heavier, it will not be applied retroactively because otherwise it becomes an ex post facto law. Applied in reverse, if a new law that makes the penalty under the revised penal code lighter, then it should be applied retroactively because it is favorable to the accused. Looking at it differently, “/t/he prospective application of the beneficial provisions of R.A. No. 10592 actually works to the disadvantage of petitioners and those who are similarly situated. It precludes the decrease in the penalty attached to their respective crimes and lengthens their prison stay; thus, making more onerous the punishment for the crimes they committed.” The Supreme Court also added that those tasked to prepare the IRR “went outside the bounds of their legal mandate when they provided for rules beyond what was contemplated by the law to be enforced”. It is a well settled rule that an IRR only operates within the bounds granted by the law to facilitate its implementation and not to prohibit what the law allows or allow what it prohibits.