House seeks replacement of Revised Penal Code
The House of Representatives justice committee has batted for the measure overhauling the country’s 85-year old Revised Penal Code, renaming penalties, adjusting fines, requiring joint civil and criminal proceedings, introducing community service, and lowering the minimum age of criminal liability to 12 years.
In a statement, committee chair Rep. Reynaldo Umali sought the speedy passage of House Bill No. 6204, which seeks to replace Book 1, or the first 113 articles of the 367-article RPC. Book 1 was trimmed to just 78 articles.
Umali was quoted in the statement as saying that legal complications and difficulty have arisen from the passage of special penal laws in the past eight decades.
“Now we can hardly keep track of the exact number of penal laws that we have and there is difficulty in determining which law or laws are to be used to prosecute a particular criminal conduct,” Umali added.
Book 1 covers the “general principles on the application of this Code, the offenses, the persons liable and the table of penalties.” The proposed replacement of the RPC would be named “the Philippine Code of Crimes.”
The bill had been prepared for the past three years by the Institute of Government and Law Reform of the University of the Philippines Law Center, which constituted an eight-member Code of Crimes Committee that included Umali.
Asked if the provisions recommended by the UP Law Center committee would still be changed by the House justice committee, Umali said in a phone interview: “Of course, it can. That will depend on the committee.”
Age of criminal liability
Among the likely controversial provisions of the proposed code is the lowering of the minimum age of criminal liability to “12 years of age or below” or “above 12 years of age and under 15 acting without discernment.”
This changes the threshold of 15 years old (or 15 to 18 years for those acting without discernment) as set under Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, which raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the original age of nine fixed by the RPC in 1932.
Another change is the Code’s proposal to let convicts render community services in case of failure to pay fines—instead of the current subsidiary imprisonment at a rate of one day for every eight pesos of unpaid fine.
This ranges from four to six months for grave crimes, one to four months for less grave crimes, and a maximum of 30 days for light crimes.
The RPC provision for the court to consider “the wealth or means of the culprit” in imposing fines, however, was deleted because it violated the equal protection clause.
No ‘prescription of penalties’
The proposed Code would also do away with the prescription of penalties, the limitation within which the penalty can be imposed when the convict escapes the service of his sentence.
It would also require civil liabilities to be tried simultaneously and jointly with the criminal proceedings against a defendant. If the civil action is instituted first, it would have to be transferred to the court where the criminal case is subsequently filed.
“The filing of the criminal action shall carry with it the filing of civil action, and no right to reserve the filing of such civil action separately from the criminal action shall be allowed,” the bill read.
The proposed Code of Crimes also replaced the terminologies, starting with the use of the word “crime” in place of “felony.”
Capital punishment is referred to as “punitive penalties” with “punitive 1” referring to the death penalty, and “punitive 2” to imprisonment of 20 years and one day to 40 years.
The proposed afflictive penalties are “afflictive 1” (12 years and one day to 20 years, or the current prision temporal), and “afflictive 2 and temporary disqualification” (6 years and one day to 12 years, or the current prision mayor).
The current penalty of prision correccional (six months and one day to six years) would be split into two penalties of “corrective 1 and suspension” (three years and one day to six years) and “corrective 2” (six months and one day to three years).
What are currently called light penalties will be renamed “restorative penalties.” These include “restorative 1” (one month and one day to six months), which is equivalent to arresto mayor, currently a corrective penalty.
“Restorative 2” (one to thirty days) is equivalent to the current penalty of arresto menor.
The proposed code would also introduce the penalties of “community service” of one day to six months, and “restrictive penalty” of six months to two years.
Updated outline of crimes
Umali could not say yet if Book 2 of the RPC, which lists down the crimes and their correspending penalties, would be passed together with Book 1 under one House bill.
He said the committee “hopes to complete” its work on the crimes and penalties that may be covered by the overhauled Code of Crimes by March next year.
The Code of Crimes Committee was also composed by Court of Appeals Associate Justice Mario Lopez, Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval, former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio, former Sandiganbayan Justice Rodolfo Palattao, former UP College of Law Dean Bartolome Carale, UP Vice-President for Legal Affairs Hector Danny Uy, and Reps. Umali and Ramon Rocamora.
The 22-page House bill, meanwhile, was authored by Umali, Rocamora, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas. je
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