By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The Office of the Court Administrator has refrained to give its position on a measure seeking to repeal the provision of the Revised Penal Code limiting to 40 years the maximum period that a convict must serve in prison even if penalized to a number of life imprisonment terms.
In a letter to the House Committee on Justice dated November 4, 2019, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez begged off not to comment on House Bill 4553, principally authored by Leyte Rep. Vicente “Ching” Veloso.
“Thank you for considering our position on the matter. However, this Office cannot give its official comment and/or recommendation on the said House Bill so as not to pre-empt any legal opinion the Court may render if the same is approved and later questioned before it,” Marquez said in a one-page letter submitted to the Veloso panel.
Last Wednesday, the Veloso panel started its initial deliberations on the bill.
Veloso, a former Court of Appeals magistrate, insisted that the fifth paragraph of Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code should be repealed “to prevent the blatant travesty of the justice system and to ensure that justice is served by the accused and achieved by victims or relatives of the victims.”
“If the case of convicts of heinous crimes sentenced with nine reclusion perpetua, even after applying the threefold rule under Article 70 of the RPC, 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. It is as if there is simultaneous service of sentences when the provision of the law mandates “successive service” of sentences,” he explained.
He said they understand the Office of Court Administrator’s “neutral” position on his proposed measure.
“They have to take that neutral position as future Arbiter of a potential dispute,” the House leader said in an interview.
Expecting that some quarters will question his measure before the Supreme Court, Veloso expressed readiness to defend HB 4553.
He expressed hope that his measure will be passed before the Christmas break.
“There is no timeline for the passage of the bill. But, it is possible the panel can pass it before the Christmas break, “he said.
During its hearing last Wednesday, the Veloso panel has asked the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) to submit its position paper on the proposed measure.