A proposed measure that seeks to amend the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and prevent the imposition of cruel and excessive punishment has virtually passed the committee level and is expected to be sponsored in plenary next month.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon on Wednesday terminated hearings on Senate Bill (SB) 14 that will update the value of damages used to determine the extent of liability and adjust amount of fines and is set to come up with the committee report before February.
“We hope that this piece of legislation would be treated with urgency and passed expeditiously. We truly believe that the threat of injustice created by an outdated instrument of justice is real, and thus requires immediate legislative action,” he said.
In citing the need to amend the 87-year-old penal code, Drilon said qualified theft by a kasambahay (housemaid) of a sack of rice will merit the penalty of reclusion temporal, with an imprisonment ranging from 12 years and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months, because the penalties are based on 1932 values.
At present, the conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d’état, rebellion or insurrection, carry a maximum fine of P8,000.
Under SB 14, fine for conspiracy and proposal to commit coup d’état, rebellion or insurrection will be increased to P1.6 million while that for maltreatment of prisoners and unlawful arrest will be P100,000.
If the proposed amendment is enacted, a person who commits treason can be fined a maximum amount of P4 million instead of P20,000.
According to Drilon, even the Supreme Court found that there seems to be a perceived injustice brought about the range of penalties that the court continues to impose on crimes committed today based on the amount of damage measured by the value of money 80 years ago.
Since the High Court cannot make adjustments on the outdated values set forth in the RPC on its own, he said, the High Court called on Congress to make the changes with the goals for its passage and take into consideration the changed conditions since the law’s enactment.
“This initiative responds to the call of our co-equal branch for the legislature to wield [its]power in not only promoting justice but also preventing injustice by ensuring the proportionality of crime and punishment, and adjusting the amounts stipulated in various provisions of the RPC to their values [at present],” Drilon added.