January 18, 2017
Senate panel tackles amendments to Revised Penal Code
To prevent the imposition of cruel and excessive punishment that violates the Constitution's Bill of Rights, Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin M. Drilon urged the Senate to prioritize Senate Bill No. 14 seeking to amend the 87-year-old Revised Penal Code (RPC).
The bill amends the RPC provisions that penalize crimes considered petty today with inordinately long prison sentences and excessive fines. For instance, qualified theft by a kasambahay of a sack of rice that costs P370 today will merit the penalty of reclusion temporal, with an imprisonment ranging from 12 years and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months, because the penalties are based on 1932 values. Drilon, a lawyer and former justice secretary, recalled that even the Supreme Court, in Lito Corpuz vs. People of the Philippines, took notice of this injustice brought about by the range of penalties that the courts continue to impose on crimes against property committed today, based on the value of money 85 years ago in 1932.
"We hope that this piece of legislation would be treated with urgency and passed expeditiously. We truly believe that the threat of injustice created by an outdated instrument of justice is real, and thus requires immediate legislative action," he stressed. Since the High Court cannot, on its own, adjust the outdated values set forth in the Revised Penal Code without committing judicial legislation, Drilon said the High Court called on Congress to realign the Revised Penal Code with the goals for its passage and take into consideration the changed conditions since the law's enactment.
"This initiative responds to the call of our co-equal branch for legislature to wield our power in not only promoting justice but also preventing injustice by ensuring the proportionality of crime and punishment, and adjusting the amounts stipulated in various provisions of the RPC to their present values," Drilon emphasized.
Since SBN 14 also seeks to adjust the value of fines, its passage means that the P5 fine that can be imposed under the present law will be increased to P1,000, while the P22,000 maximum fine will be increased to P4.4 million.
For instance, under the bill, a person who commits treason can be fined a maximum amount of P4 million instead of P20 thousand.
For conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d'état, rebellion or insurrection, the maximum imposable fine will be increased to P1.6 million from P8,000; for maltreatment of prisoners, it will be P100 thousand instead of P500; for unlawful arrest, it will become P100 thousand from P500; for indirect assault, the maximum imposable fine will be P100 thousand from P500; and for falsification by private individuals and use of falsified documents, it will be P1 million from P5 thousand.
Drilon said he plans to submit his committee report by the end of the month and hopes that it can be enacted before the Senate adjourns in June.
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