House seeks overhaul of 85-year old penal laws

The House committee on justice chaired by Rep. Reynaldo Umali (2nd District, Oriental Mindoro) sought the speedy passage of a measure that aims to make the country's 85-year-old penal laws responsive to the current situation.

House Bill No. 6204 or the proposed Philippine Code of Crimes seeks to overhaul the antiquated Revised Penal Code, which has been the country's penal law since 1932, or for 85 years.

The bill likewise seeks to incorporate all other special penal laws into a single criminal code.

The bill is authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo FariAas, Umali and Reps. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas (6th District, Pangasinan), and Ramon Rocamora (Lone District, Siquijor).

In their explanatory note, the authors said HB No. 6204 wishes to achieve the following:

1. Update and revise existing penal laws to make them relevant in accordance with current international best practices;

2. Integrate special laws in order to have one code for all criminal laws;

3. Strengthen the criminal justice system through relevant laws to address present societal problems;

4. Ensure that there will be a single and unified criminal code, taking into consideration future laws to be passed.

Umali, chairman of the committee on justice, stressed the importance of the speedy passage of the proposed Philippine Code of Crimes which, he said, will consolidate the Revised Penal Code and other special penal laws into a single penal code to make it more responsive to the reforms needed in the country's criminal justice system.

This bill seeks to overhaul the antiquated Revised Penal Code, which has been our country's penal law since 1932 or a good 85 years, Umali said.

The present code was based on the Spanish Codigo Penal, which was enforced in the Philippines from 1896 to 1930. Today, 85 years have elapsed but no amendments or revisions were made, he lamented.

Eight decades after, special penal laws proliferate in the Philippine laws which has resulted in legal complications, so much so that the task of restructuring and integrating it into one code has become an arduous task, Umali said.

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.

According to Umali, the Revised Penal Code still contains antiquated provisions that punish crimes that are no longer relevant. He added that some of the penalties and punishments have already become obsolete.

Umali underscored the importance of Congress as a venue for undertaking reforms in the criminal justice system, which, he said, is a daunting task.

Congress is a very good venue for us to undertake reforms in the criminal justice system. Through Congress, we will have a better access to all stakeholders involved, Umali said.

HB No. 6204 covers Book 1 of the Revised Penal Code, which is the result of the initiative of the Code of Crimes Committee spearheaded by the Institute of Government and Law Reform (IGLR) of the UP Law Center.

The UP Law Center, through the IGLR, constituted the Code of Crimes Committee composed of criminal law experts, members of the bench, and House members, namely Umali, Primicias-Agabas, and Rocamora.

When I learned that they have already completed Book 1, and some titles and chapters in Book 2 are either complete, almost complete, or just undergoing some refinements, I proposed that Congress should proceed to tackle House Bill No. 6204, the Book 1 of the Code of Crimes which was recently referred to the committee to allow creation of the special Technical Working Groups (TWGs) that would continue to work on the unfinished business of the UP Law Center, Umali said.

Of course, this is a common undertaking with the Bar associations and, of course, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for the rolling out of this Code of Crimes, Umali said.

Source: House of Representatives

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