FINALLY, the country’s 79-year-old Revised Penal Code (RPC) is up for a “comprehensive review.”

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has taken a gargantuan step to replace the archaic and deficient general criminal code, which was enforced during the American occupation in the Philippines in 1932, through the formation of what she called “Criminal Code Committee.”

According to her, given the dramatic changes that transpired in this civil and modern time, there is “an urgent need to craft a truly organic and Filipino criminal code attuned to values and norms.” 

Many of the provisions of the RPC are even copied from the first penal code in the Philippines introduced by the Spaniards, causing systemic injustice in the country today.

Despite a number of amendments with some if its provisions, the RPC remains a failure in providing appropriate rules and sanctions to the multitude of possible criminal actions. Offenses such as plunder, money laundering and illegal possession of firearms, among others, are not penalized under the RPC but by special legislations in the form of republic acts.

There is no need to overstate the indwelling and cataclysmic consequences, which can be procured by this inept criminal justice system that can be readily found in primetime news telecasts. What needs ample attention is the inaction of due litigation and punishment over freely lurking culprits enjoying “innocent” lives.

Perennial happenings reignite calls for reforms but are, somehow, dawdled by the RPC’s “incompleteness.”

The Philippines, and the Filipino people for that matter, cannot continuously rely on such code that does not codify all criminal possibilities nor can we cannot expect that a number of amendments in the penal code could pave the way to make it still effective, and make this country’s criminal law system relevant.

The first step

Yet, attaining a penal code imbibed with a longstanding relevance and enduring efficacy is but the greater challenge.

De Lima, and her army men who are experts from various disciplines and organizations, may have to consider cases that are not solely responsive to present day problems but also to those which can be foreseen to be stemming from them.

We do not want to wait for several other decades before the RPC gets reviewed again. We do not want to witness once more the rise of crooks and thieves. We have had enough of those.

What people desire is an economy “free” from public scandal and misery, with no—or perhaps less—juridical frailty nor social infirmity. And it is time for us to take a long shot in order to take hold of these.

It may seem utopian but better to be idealistic than problematic.

Yes, one perfect judicial system is undeniably unrealizable, but at least we should try to actualize one that is justifiably just, and revisiting the crisp pages of the RPC is one significant step that inches us closer to that.

Let us invest ample trust to the legal luminaries from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Philippine Judicial Academy, Philippine Judges Association, Philippine Association of Law Schools, and Regional Prosecutors’ Council, with hopes that the people’s battle cry against neglected atrocities be resolved.

Furthermore, let this be the start of the Department of Justice’s reconsideration of reviewing other weak and ineffective laws that hamper a credible judicial system and process in the country. It is about time.

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