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The government is studying the possibility of decriminalizing prostitution and gambling, saying these are not necessarily crimes but acts borne out of poverty.
At a press conference in Manila to give updates on the revision of the 80-year-old Revised Penal Code, members of the Criminal Code Committee (CCC), tasked to undertake the revision, described poverty and gambling as "candidates for deletion" from the RPC.
"Apparently the trend is something social. (Prostitution is more like a) social problem... (Kaya)
Malamang decriminalize ang prostitution," Makati chief prosecutor Feliciano Aspi told reporters, adding that gambling too could be decriminalized.
"These crimes are just committed because of poverty so why penalize poverty? The state should provide jobs for them," he said.
But Aspi assured the public that even if prostitution and gambling get decriminalized, these acts could still be punishable not under the RPC but under "special laws."
Raoul Creencia, a government corporate counsel, said they considered decriminalizing prostitution after conducting focus group discussions with women and church sectors, group meetings, roadshows and workshops, as well as consulting witb experts.
"One of the suggestions was to retain some crimes against women and children as special laws. There is a strong lobby to retain that," he said.
Last week, the government said it was in the final part of a two-phase revision of the RPC, enacted during the American occupation in 1932.
The DOJ said the CCC, created in April 2011 to carry out the task of updating the country's general criminal code, has started "Phase 2" or drafting "Book 2" of the proposed RPC.
The new Criminal Code is a priority project of the Aquino administration to simplify, codify and rationalize more than 400 criminal laws, according to the DOJ.
The DOJ said Book 2 of the new RPC would be composed of three main parts that tackle: 1) crimes against property; 2) crimes against persons; and 3) crimes against the State.
The CCC assured the public that the draft of Book 2 of the new RPC would be ready for submission "by the end of 2013."
In November last year, the CCC completed Phase 1 or Book 1 of the new Penal Code and contained 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.
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 the lowering of the age for criminal liability to 12 years old from the current 15 years old.
However, based on the CCC proposal, youth offenders 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 to "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.
On Tuesday, the DOJ said that the CCC has conducted 42 "experts group meetings" for the creation of an updated RPC.
The CCC is composed of representatives from the following:
- Supreme Court
- Philippine National Police
- 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.
— RSJ, GMA News