Gutierrez: Enactment of stronger Probation law sets momentum for criminal justice reform

A ‘stronger’ Probation law has been signed by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, a positive move seen by Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez will kick-start criminal justice reform in the country.

Also known as Republic Act No. 10707, the approved measure seeks to amend Presidential Decree No. 968, otherwise known as the ‘Probation Law of 1976’, as amended.

“With the approval of the measure, we set the ball rolling in reforming our criminal justice system and instituting corrective measures to address the gaps within the processes and the system which emerged with the test of time,” the lawmaker said.

Gutierrez, who is a main author and member of the bicameral conference committee that drafted the approved proposal, is also a lawyer and former Director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Human Rights (IHR).

It focuses on probation reform to ensure that law offenders are punished effectively and appropriately, while also making certain that those who show a promise of reform, particularly the low-level offenders, are given the chance to transition back to regain their lives and re-enter the mainstream society with less difficulty.

The new law has a retroactive provision which provides that when a judgement of conviction imposing a non-probationable judgement was modified following an appeal or review, the convicted offender shall be allowed probation based on the modified decision.

“This provides offenders, who fall between the gaps of our legal system and, inadvertently, receive highly disproportionate penalties, the redeeming chance to have their punishment corrected according to individual character and the circumstances of the offense committed,” Gutierrez explained.

Other salient provisions of the bill includes expanding the coverage and standardizing the tenure, responsibilities and the remuneration of volunteer probation assistants (VPAs) to make sure they are effective in assisting the chief probation and parole officers in the supervised rehabilitation program of the probationers.

As volunteers, they are not entitled to any regular compensation, but they are provided reasonable transportation and meal allowances.

The Act is a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 2280 and House Bill No. 4147.

Following the approval of the new Probation Law, Gutierrez also expressed hope this will set in motion other justice reforms, particularly in ensuring that irrelevant and antiquated provisions of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), which contains the general penal laws of the country, are repealed, amended and kept to date.###

Rep. Gutierrez receives Pisay Gawad Lagablab Award for exemplary leadership, public service

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez was honored with the Philippine Science High School National Alumni Association’s (PSHS NAA) Gawad Lagablab Award 2015 Saturday for his exemplary quality of leadership and dedication to advancing the public’s interest, defending human rights, and speaking for the underprivileged.

Being a product of a public school system, I view my involvement in politics and governance as really a commitment to serve and give back to the country that has provided for my education to pursue transformative change, reform and development work,” he said.

Since 1991, the Gawad Lagablab Award is a recognition conferred by the PSHS NAA to the alumni who have displayed excellence in academic performance, exceptional achievement in their chosen field of endeavor, and exemplary service to our community and our nation.

Gawad Lagablab recipients are also viewed as inspiration and role models worthy of emulation by both fellow PSHS alumni and students.

Education

Gutierrez attended the UP Integrated School for basic education and the Philippine Science High School for higher learning. In 1994, he graduated cum laude from the UP School of Economics and received a degree from the UP College of Law in 1998.

In 2004, Barry obtained his LLM in Public Service Law, specializing in International Law and Economic and Social Rights, from New York University (NYU), where he studied under a joint scholarship grant from the Fulbright Foundation and the NYU Global Public Service Law Project. While studying, he interned with the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights in Washington, D.C., focusing on issues involving economic and social rights.

Public interest Lawyer

True to the ideals fostered by the Gawad Lagablab, Gutierrez’ career decisions have always been towards a path where more people will benefit from his abilities, choosing a path wrought with challenges over a comfortable life.

This path was set was when he quit a prestigious law firm after successfully defending a big-ticket client in 1999 in order to join the Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panlegal-Alternative Legal Assistance Center (SALIGAN-ALAC) from 1999-2000, a non-government organization fighting for the rights of the marginalized sectors and local communities towards the empowerment of women, indigenous peoples, farmers and the other basic sectors, and local communities.

In 2000, Gutierrez joined the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) as Director IV (Chief Legal Counsel and Spokesperson) to help address the dire need of an adequate and sustainable housing for the urban poor families in the country.

Since his return from the U.S. in 2004, he has acted as legal counsel, both in a consultative capacity, as well as a representative in actual litigation for various NGOs, private organizations, and other civil society groups in relation to a variety of public interest issues from 2004 to 2011.
Dedicated Educator and Tireless Human Rights Advocate

Moved by his passion to give back to the public school system that has provided him an array of opportunities, Gutierrez returned to the University of the Philippines (UP) to help shape young students who are aspiring to become lawyers.

From 2001 to 2011, he was an Associate Professor at the UP College of Law while holding a concurrent position as Director of the UP Institute of Human Rights.

During this period, he also served as a consultant (2001) for the US Agency for International Aid (USAID) in developing the Philippine Climate Change Mitigation Project of the Department of Energy (DoE) and as an Associate at the Poblador Bautista and Reyes Law Office.

Gutierrez has also handled cases before trial courts, administrative tribunals and even the Supreme Court, involving issues such as the freedom of speech and public assembly, suffrage, housing rights, and adequate regulation for public utilities.

A partial list of cases he handled included:

  • Ang Ladlad Party LGBT Party v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 190582 (2010)
    Petition assailing COMELEC resolution denying And Ladlad the standing to participate in the 2010 Party List Elections.
  • Raul L. Lambino, et al., v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 174153 (2006)
    Intervention in opposition to the Petition filed by Raul Lambino, et al., seeking amendment of the 1987 Constitution through people’s initiative.
  • Randolf S. David, Lorenzo Tañada III, Ronald Llamas, et al. v. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 171396 (2006)
    Petition before the Supreme Court assailing the Constitutionality of Proclamation No. 1017 and General Order No. 5 which declared a state of national emergency.
  • Freedom from Debt Coalition, et al. v. MWSS, et al., G.R. No. 173044 (2007)
    Petition assailing validity of MWSS Board Resolution declaring that water service concessionaires Manila Water and Maynilad were not public utilities.
  • Arturo M. De Castro v. Judicial Bar Council (JBC), et al., G.R. No. 191002 (2010)
    Intervention in opposition to the Petition filed by De Castro seeking to appoint a “midnight” Chief Justice.
  • Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez v. House of Representatives, et al., G.R. No. 193459 (2010), Representing private respondents and impeachment complainants Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Danilo D. Lim, and spouses Philip and Evelyn Pestaño
    Opposition to Petition of Merceditas Gutierrez seeking to stop impeachment proceedings against her in the House of Representatives.

Committed Public Servant

Throughout his professional career, Gutierrez has held key positions in the government such as being the Chief Legal Counsel of HUDCC and as an Associate Professor at the UP College of Law and Director of the UP Institute of Human Rights.

In 2010, he served as an Undersecretary at the Office of the Political Adviser of the Office of the President.

He resigned in 2012 after he was nominated and has, subsequently, taken an oath as representative of Akbayan Party List at the House of Representatives for the 16th Congress.

In his 2 years in Congress, Gutierrez has authored 45 bills and co-authored 105 others. Three have been passed into law and many are in the advanced stages. He is the principal author of bills relating to the right of citizens to information, the rights of persons internally displaced by calamities, the promotion of fair competition, reforms on the Philippine government’s budget process, and the prohibition of discrimination of any form, among others.

Gutierrez is the Vice Chairperson of two (2) House of Representatives committees: notably, the committees on Human Rights and the Revision of Laws and a member of eight (8) other committees, namely: Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Health, Local Government, Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, Women and Gender Equality, Ethics and Privileges, and as Vice Chairperson of Human Rights and the Revision of Laws.

For Gutierrez, serving the Filipino people is his way of repaying the country for what he received in terms of education and opportunity. ###