Commit any of these 13 horrible crimes, and you could be imprisoned for 40 years, or until you reach 70 years old, without the benefit of possible early release: drug felonies, murder, rape, robbery, car theft, kidnapping, bribery, plunder, parricide, infanticide, destructive arson, piracy and treason.
This sums up the proposal of House Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay party-list group Rep. Lito Atienza, as contained in House Bill 3652, for the worst criminal offenders to receive a new sentence called “qualified reclusion perpetua.”
“Once enacted, our bill basically means that hardened convicts are bound to die of natural causes while in prison, considering that 59 years is the expected life expectancy of a long-term Filipino male detainee while that of a female is 66 years,” Atienza said in a statement on Friday.
The average natural life expectancy of a Filipino male is 65 years while that of a Filipino female is 72 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Atienza, however, said studies have demonstrated that the stressors, violence and disease associated with long-term incarceration tend to diminish the natural life expectancy of convicts by an average of six years.
Every day from January to June this year, an average of 24 murder cases and an average of 26 rape cases are committed, according to a report from the Philippine National Police Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management that was submitted to Congress.
In the six-month period, car-theftcases averaged 30 every day, while robbery cases averaged 65.
Meanwhile, theft cases averaged 152 every day, while homicide cases averaged five, and physical injury cases averaged 98.
The figures exclude unreported cases.
“We are offering our bill as a superior alternative to the state-sponsored execution of convicts, which has absolutely no place in a modern and highly civilized society,” Atienza, a pro-life crusader, said.
Despite his proposal, he maintained that “the certainty of capture and punishment of offenders is still our best deterrent to other would-be criminals.”
“Prolonged prison terms are meaningless if our criminal justice system, largely on account of rampant corruption, is unable to successfully apprehend, prosecute, sentence and lock away criminals, or if some long-term convicts continue to enjoy lavish lives in detention,” Atienza said.
An ongoing congressional inquiry into proliferation of illegal drugs at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) has uncovered opulent lives enjoyed by maximum-security detainees, mainly because of sleaze at the Bureau of Corrections and the Department of Justice.
Atienza’s bill seeks to impose an extreme version of long-term imprisonment.
At present, the Revised Penal Code and special penal laws provide for two modes of long-term incarceration—“reclusion perpetua” and “life imprisonment.”
Reclusion perpetua means that after 30 years, the convict becomes eligible for pardon.
“Life imprisonment” under special laws is an “indeterminate” sentence with no details on pardon.
In both cases of long-term imprisonment, the convict may benefit from parole or possible conditional early release for good behavior.
The convict may also benefit from a reduced prison term for time spent in detention prior to sentencing.
These benefits would not be enjoyed by convicts sentenced to qualified reclusion perpetua.