House panel starts deliberations to upgrade criminal justice system

Published May 30, 2018, 10:27 AM

by AJ Siytangco


By Charissa Luci-Atienza

The House Committee on Justice has started deliberating on the bill seeking to strengthen the criminal justice system by instituting the Philippine Code of Crimes.

The panel chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, said they are committed to overhaul the antiquated Revised Penal Code of the Philippines and other special laws to further strengthen the criminal justice system.

The Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao commences in the Plenary of the Batasang Pambansa on December 13, 2017. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Once the Code of Crimes is passed, there shall no longer be a need to pass special laws to amend the certain penal provisions. Instead, all laws passed shall amend the Code of Crimes,” he said.

He noted that similar endeavors have been successfully undertaken in other states. Spain, in particular, passed its Codigo Penal, which included special laws as well.

The 22-page House Bill 6204, principally authored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, intends to replace the first 113 Articles of the 85-year old Revised Penal Code.

Briefing the Umali panel on Tuesday morning, University of the Philippines Law Reform Specialist Atty. Michelle San Buenaventura-Dy said the Code of Crimes Committee of the UP Law Center has reviewed three titles of the Revised Penal Code and proposed one new title—Crimes Committed Against the State, Crimes Committed Against the Fundamental Laws of the State, Crimes Against Chastity and Honor, and Crimes Against Humanitarian Laws.

“Some of the original titles that were identified were converted to chapters or sub-chapters of the existing titles,” San Buenaventura-Dy said.

“We would like to emphasize that in the revision of the Revised Penal Code and conversion into the Code of Crimes, the intention of the committee is to include already as much as possible the special penal laws that will fall under the specific chapters or titles of the code to make it easier for the users—the lawyers, and the people affected by these laws—and to make the Code of Crimes more cohesive,” she added.

When asked to comment on the matter, Retired Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval said it would be a Herculean task to fine tune the Book Two as some provisions have to be reconciled.

“We found difficulty and delay in Book Two because we intend to incorporate all special laws. And henceforth, after the approval of this Code of Crimes there will be no more special laws except those subsequently passed by the Congress of the Philippines,” Sandoval said.

“Let’s say under Articles 343 and 342. If a person would abduct a woman, carry her from a place to another against her will and in the process he kissed and touched her, that’s forcible abduction but the penalty is only reclusion temporal. However, if one kidnaps a woman, bringing her from one place to another against her will and does not kiss her nor touch her, the crime becomes kidnapping and serious illegal intention and the penalty is reclusion perpetua to death,” Sandoval said.

He said there is also a need to fine-tune the anti-hazing provisions since hazing is not included in quasi-offenses though there is no intent to kill.

During the hearing, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said it rallied behind the passage of the measure.

Police Chief Superintendent Manolo Ozaeta said the House leadership’s measure will benefit the PNP as it simplifies their job.

Co-authors of HB 6204 are Umali, Suquijor Rep. Ramon Rocamora, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas.