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House starts discussions on Code of Crimes

The House committee on justice chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali on Tuesday opened deliberations on House Bill 6204 seeking to institute the Philippine Code of Crimes.

The bill, principally authored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, aims to strengthen the criminal justice system by revising the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines and other special laws.

University of the Philippines Law Reform specialist Michelle San Buenaventura-Dy said the Code of Crimes Committee of the UP Law Center has worked to fine-tune Book Two of the Code of Crimes.

She said the panel has reviewed three titles of the Revised Penal Code and proposed one new title – Crimes Committed Against the State, Crimes Committed Against the Fundamental Laws of the State, Crimes Against Chastity and Honor, and Crimes Against Humanitarian Laws.

“Some of the original titles that were identified were converted to chapters or sub-chapters of the existing titles,” San Buenaventura-Dy said.

“We would like to emphasize that in the revision of the Revised Penal Code and conversion into the Code of Crimes, the intention of the committee is to include already as much as possible the special penal laws that will fall under the specific chapters or titles of the code to make it easier for the users – the lawyers, and the people affected by these laws – and to make the Code of Crimes more cohesive,” she added.

Retired Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval said the Code of Crimes Committee encountered challenges in Book Two.

“We found difficulty and delay in Book Two because we intend to incorporate all special laws. And henceforth, after the approval of this Code of Crimes there will be no more special laws except those subsequently passed by the Congress of the Philippines,” Sandoval said.

He also noted difficulties in reconciling certain provisions.

“Let’s say under Articles 343 and 342, if a person would abduct a woman, carry her from a place to another against her will and in the process he kissed and touched her, that’s forcible abduction but the penalty is only reclusion temporal. However, if one kidnaps a woman, bringing her from one place to another against her will and does not kiss her nor touch her, the crime becomes kidnapping and serious illegal intention and the penalty is reclusion perpetua to death,” Sandoval said.

He cited as examples having to reconcile provisions in adultery and concubinage which were unfair to women, replacing the two with the crime of marital infidelity. Sandoval also noted the need to fine-tune anti-hazing provisions as hazing is not included in quasi-offences though there is no intent to kill.

Meanwhile, Police Chief Superintendent Manolo Ozaeta expressed the support of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for the Code of Crimes, saying the police is “most benefitted” by this as it will simplify their job.

Umali said once the Code of Crimes is passed, there is no need to pass special laws to amend the certain penal provisions. Instead, all laws passed shall amend the Code of Crimes.

He added that other states have done a similar undertaking like Spain, which passed its Codigo Penal that included special laws.#