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DOJ committee completes first phase of penal code revision

The Department of Justice on Wednesday said that the first of a two-phase revision of the 80-year-old Revised Penal Code has been completed, and is ready to be converted into a bill for Congress' approval. Justice Department Assistant Secretary Gerardo Sy said President Benigno Aquino III had the new criminal code endorsed to congress and he should have the bill passed before the President's term ends in 2016. "We want this to become a part of President Aquino's legislative legacy," Sy said in a press conference in Manila on Wednesday. In April, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima formed  a committee that would review the Revised Penal Code — the country’s general criminal code — because some of its provisions stemmed from an “antiquated” general penal law enacted during the American occupation in 1932. The criminal code committee (CCC) is composed of representatives from the following institutions: the Supreme Court, the Philippine National Police, the Department of Justice and its attached agencies: the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Immigration, Public Attorney’s Office, Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, Office of the Solicitor General, Board of Pardons and Parole, and the Land Registration Authority. On Wednesday, Ryan Balicasan of the CCC explained that his team's aim was to develop a "simple, organic, and a truly Filipino" criminal code, which echoes de Lima’s earlier stated guiding policy regarding the revision.   The CCC said Phase 1 or Book 1 has already been completed and contains general principles applicable to the punishment of crimes. Under the proposed criminal code, criminal offenses would be divided into six levels: Levels 1 to 5, and the gravest which is punishable by life imprisonment. Furthermore, each level will also no longer carry Spanish names. Lawyers and other legal professionals often had to go to the original Spanish text of Act No. 3815 (the Revised Penal Code) because it is the Spanish text and not the English translation that is controlling. In fact, most provisions were copied from the old Spanish Penal Code. “Over the years, there have been dramatic changes in the nature and types of crimes and there is an urgent need to craft a truly organic, Filipino criminal code attuned to our values and norms,” De Lima had said. Under that policy, the stages in the commission of crimes would be simplified and there would no longer be a "frustrated" stage. The CCC also proposed that criminal liability would also be lowered to 12 years old. Sy however clarified that teenagers aged 12 and above would only get jail time if the crime committed falls under heinous crimes or under Level 5. If the crime committed is less grave, he would be subject under "community interventions" instead. Under the proposed code, fines would also be based on a person's minimum daily wage and would be determined by the court. "We are happy with the pace of the CCC's work, which we attribute largely to the consultative, multi-perspective and dynamic approach being taken by its dedicated and hard-working representatives," said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in a statement. "Work on Book 2 of the proposed Criminal Code is under way, and the members of the CCC are currently discussing and considering timely and relevant issues," the DOJ said. — DVM, GMA News