Veloso wants more than 40 years for heinous crimes
MANILA, Philippines — The chair of the House justice committee is seeking the repeal of a clause in the Revised Penal Code that limits the maximum penalty for criminal offenders to 40 years in prison, describing it as a “blatant travesty of justice” that has been exploited by heinous crime convicts.
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso III, a former Court of Appeals justice, said the upper limit on prison terms under Article 70 of the penal code meant there was essentially no difference between a prisoner serving multiple sentences for heinous crimes and another serving only one.
“In the case of convicts of heinous crimes sentenced [to] nine [terms of] reclusion perpetua, even after applying the three-fold rule under Article 70… the convict will only be made to serve 40 years of imprisonment—no distinction with those convicted of one count of murder to serve only one reclusion perpetua sentence,” Veloso said.
“To prevent the blatant travesty of the justice system and to ensure that justice is served by the accused and achieved by the victims or relatives of the victims, repeal of the fifth paragraph of Article 70 should be approved,” Veloso said in an explanatory note to House Bill No. 4553.
He was referring to the paragraph that reads: “Such maximum period [of reclusion perpetua] shall in no case exceed 40 years.”
At present, the maximum penalty under the Revised Penal Code is reclusion perpetua, which carries a prison term of 20 to 40 years in prison.
But under the three-fold rule, the maximum duration of convicts’ sentences should not be more than thrice the length of time corresponding to the most severe of the penalties imposed on them.
Veloso said the 40-year limit was instrumental to the controversial release of more than 2,000 heinous crime convicts for good behavior through the expanded good conduct time allowance law, one of the recent amendments to the Revised Penal Code.
The good conduct law is supposed to exclude “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes,” but the implementation rules do not clearly cover all heinous crime convicts, creating a legal ambiguity in the interpretation of the law.
More than 2,000 freed
An uproar over the thwarted release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez through the good conduct law led to the discovery that the Bureau of Corrections had already released 2,159 heinous crime convicts since the law came into effect in 2014.
Sanchez’s foiled walk to freedom brought to light the release of other heinous crime prisoners under similar conditions.
Veloso’s committee began a parallel investigation of the good conduct policy under Republic Act No. 10592.
He earlier said the heinous crime convicts should never have been released.
“Under Republic Act 10592, those convicted of heinous crimes are not qualified to be considered initially [for release], even if it’s just counting one day [of good behavior],” he said.
Veloso said rearresting the released prisoners was the “only course of action” for the corrections bureau, whose personnel had erred in freeing them.
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