MANILA—A Senate panel started on Wednesday its public hearing on proposed Senate Bill No. 14 seeking to amend Revised Penal Code and remove its ‘cruel punishment’ on individual who commits petty crimes.
Drilon said the Republic Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code which was enacted in 1930, provides 12 years and one day to 20 years imprisonment to individual who stole property worth only PHP251 in a public building or a church.
“Isn’t that cruel, degrading, and inhuman to imprison for 12 years and 1 day to 20 years one who is found guilty of robbery a public building or a church where the value of the property is only PHP251?” Drilon asked during the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes’ first public hearing on the proposed measure.
Despite undergoing a number of piecemeal amendments over the years, Drilon said the Revised Penal Code has for the most part endured and remained to be the most extensive and significant reference work in Philippine Criminal Law.
“Yet even the finest pieces of legislation are rendered obsolete by the passage of time. In this case, 80 years. Today, beyond obsolescence, the Revised Penal Code may even be attacked as inflicting “cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment,” which is, as we all know, in violation of our Bill of Rights, Section 19, Article 3 of our Constitution,” Drilon said.
Drilon said even the Supreme Court (SC), in the 2014 case of Lito Corpuz versus People of the Philippines, was called to settle an issue concerning the fairness of continuing to impose penalties based on the amount of damage measured by the value of money 80 years ago.
“The Supreme Court turned the spotlight on a perceived injustice brought about by the range of penalties that the courts continue to impose on crimes against property committed today, based on the amount of damage measured by the value of money 80 years ago in 1932,” Drilon, a lawyer by profession, said.
Since the High Court cannot adjust the outdated values set forth in the Revised Penal Code without committing judicial legislation, Drilon said the Senate has to overhaul of archaic laws that were promulgated decades ago when the political, socio-economic, and cultural settings were very different from today’s conditions.
He said the proposed measure seeks to accomplish two things: First, update the value of damages used to determine the extent of liability; and second, adjust the amount of fines.
“We can multiply the PHP250 by, let’s say, 200 times,” Drilon said.
According to the Public Attorney’s Office, the bill, if passed into law, will benefit about 50,000 prisoners.
“We are not saying that they will be released. What we are saying is that their sentences may be reduced, or maybe they have served the whole period, so they may be benefited,” Drilon explained.
Drilon said his committee will try to pass the bill before Congress adjourns in June this year.