The Senate passed today on third and final reading a bill which seeks to update the amounts prescribed under the 87-year old Revised Penal Code, to prevent the imposition of cruel and excessive punishment.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, sponsor and author of Senate Bill No. 14, said the bill sought to address the “outdated” penalties for certain crimes, which were based on the economic standards since the Revised Penal Code first took effect in 1930.
The bill, co-authored by Senator Leila de Lima and co-sponsored by Senator Richard Gordon, was approved with 21 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and no abstention.
Drilon noted that in 2014, the Supreme Court, in the case of Lito Corpuz v. People of the Philippines (G. R.No. 180016, 29 April 2014) had asked Congress to amend the Revised Penal Code and “take into consideration the changed conditions since the law’s enactment.”
“The only remedy is to call for the much- needed overhaul of an archaic law that was promulgated decades ago when the political, socio-economic, and cultural settings were very much different from today’s conditions,” Drilon said.
He said the bill essentially sought to “update the value of the damages used in determining the extent of liability and imprisonment; and adjust the amount of fines,” using a formula adopted from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“The application of the DOJ formula yields adjusted rates that are more appropriate for the objectives of the law – one, to avoid the imposition of cruel and excessive punishment, and two, to make imposable fines an effective deterrent to crimes,” Drilon said.
For instance, Drilon said, a person found guilty of estafa today involving an amount of P250 would suffer a jail term or would be imprisoned for up to two years and four months. Under the proposed measure, the imposable penalty for such an offense involving the same amount “would be reduced to four months of imprisonment.”
In contrast, Drilon said a P5 fine imposed under the present Revised Penal Code “would be increased to P1,000.”
According to the bill, imposed fines on high crimes such as treason and rebellion will increase from ₱20,000 and ₱8,000 to a maximum of ₱4 million and ₱1.6 million respectively.
The bill also seeks to update penalties for maltreatment of prisoners, unlawful arrest and indirect assault from ₱500 to ₱100,000 while penalties for falsification of documents will be increased from ₱5,000 to ₱1 million.
Drilon said the proposed measure would have a retroactive effect, and was expected to benefit about 54,189 mostly poor inmates.
“Not that they will be immediately released, but their sentences will be equitably reduced, corresponding to today’s value of the property stolen, not the values set in 1930,” he stressed. “We truly believe that the threat of injustice created by an outdated instrument of justice is real, and thus requires immediate legislative action.”