A bill defining a new mode of life imprisonment for serious offenders will be filed by Buhay party-list Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza when the 17th Congress opens.
Atienza said his proposal is an alternative to death by hanging pushed by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.
The lawmaker earlier expressed support for Duterte’s strong anti-crime stance but cautioned the incoming Congress against a “reckless” revival of the death penalty, saying executions will only breed a culture of violence and more brutal crimes.
“The problem with the death penalty is that it leaves no room for rectification. We cannot bring a dead convict back to life, even if another party later on confesses to having committed the crime for which the convict had been wrongfully condemned,” Atienza, a former three-term Manila mayor, said in a statement issued on Sunday.
His bill proposes a “qualified reclusion perpetua” for those found guilty of grave crime instead of the death penalty which, he pointed out, has been abolished by 140 countries including the Philippines as a punishment that violates the sanctity of human life.
Atienza explained that the maximum penalty in the country’s penal code is ‘reclusion perpetua’ or a simple life term which means up to 40 years in prison, with the convict becoming eligible for conditional early release after serving just half of the term.
But in qualified reclusion perpetua, he said, a convict would stay in prison for a minimum of 40 years or until he or she reaches 70 years old, whichever comes first, before becoming eligible for parole.
“Our alternative is tantamount to locking up a convict and throwing away the key,” Atienza noted.
Under existing laws, he said, convicts serving life terms are entitled to good conduct or loyalty allowances as well as reduction of sentence for time spent in detention before conviction.
“But under our proposal, all these allowances and the benefit of reduced sentence for preventive detention would not apply to convicts sentenced to qualified reclusion perpetua,” Atienza added.
The lawmaker also wants those convicted of heinous crimes to perform productive labor while in prison, with the earnings derived from their work serving to indemnify victims.
For this purpose, Atienza urged the establishment of a new Victim’s Indemnification Fund to be administered by the Department of Justice.
Duterte earlier said in a news conference that he would ask Congress to approve capital punishment, carried out through hanging, for heinous crimes such as drug-related offenses and rape.
But Atienza maintained that raising the certainty of punishment is the strongest deterrent to crime, as opposed to increasing the severity of penalty, and called for a total war against corruption to ensure arrest and punishment.
“If there was 100 percent assurance of being apprehended and imprisoned for committing a crime, fewer people would do so,” he said.