Press Release
December 5, 2011

1st National Criminal Justice Summit

9:00 am., Monday, 5 December 2011

His Excellency, President Benigno S. Aquino III, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Secretary Leila de Lima, fellow government workers, our friends from the international community and the civil society, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant morning to all of you.

It is a great honor and pleasure to join you in this historic occasion which brings together representatives from the five pillars of justice namely: law enforcement, defense, judiciary, corrections and community. I am proud to be part of this noteworthy endeavor to reform our criminal justice system.

Criminal cases that happened in those days were speedily done. The responsible people were challenged, tried and convicted and held in custody but changes happened in our country after several years of evolution especially after my experience in the last World War in 1941 up to 1945.

Today, we live in a more open and seemingly borderless world marked by amazing advancements in technology. However, even if the global landscape presents enormous possibilities for human development, it also arms criminal elements with mechanisms to prosper in the work that they do.

For instance, the electronic transfer of money which has made it easier for our countrymen working overseas to send money to their families has also made it easier to transfer money that would be used for criminal or nefarious activities. Even cell phones that revolutionized communication in other parts of the world are not totally harmless. While they make communication very easy today, there have been many occasions in the past when they were also used to detonate bombs, to kill not just one or two or three or a great number of people, they cause harm and serious injury to people and properties.

Moreover, there are crimes that are being committed in cyberspace that destroy very important government files and bank records as well as reputations, properties and lives of individuals.

The aforementioned examples that were cited show us that while technology spurs progress, it is also being used as a means to further the interests of rogue members of our society. Criminal networks, criminal syndicates are more than eager to exploit new technologies for their criminal activities and economic gain.

Apparently, we are also experiencing the downside of globalization as the type and nature of crimes against humanity have multiplied, and even intensified, over the years. What is unfortunate, however, is that if we cut through the fog of daily headlines, we will be confronting the painful truth that we are fighting crimes with obsolete tools, obsolete principles and inadequate legal system.

There has always been a strong clamor to arrest the onset of lawlessness and criminality in the country. Now, more than ever, we need to update our laws to make them relevant to our present times. The Revised Penal Code, which dates back during the Spanish era, the Codigo Penal of our Spanish colonizers, and amended 80 years ago, mind you, 80 years ago, just shorter than my time on earth, has increasingly become a legal relic. As I have said during the Legislators Forum last July, it is time to produce not just a code but a compendium of penal laws and the sanctions for crimes even covered by special laws in order to make it easier for us and our people to refer to them whenever we encounter criminal activities. We need to have a truly organic, Filipino criminal code that reflects the values and norms of our own society.

I have been saying for many years that we need to undertake meaningful reforms in our justice system. We have to change and define many of the criminal activities of the country today that through our law enforcement agents and modernize our criminal procedures and our system of custodial function for our convicted criminals. More importantly, we have to maintain peace and order and preserve the moral fabric of our society. I was elated when I learned that the Department of Justice took the initiative to conduct a thorough review and eventually propose much-needed revisions of the Revised Penal Code through the creation of a Criminal Code Committee.

It would be difficult for our people to appreciate the fruits of economic and social development if they are not safe and secure in their communities, in their places of work and specially even in their own homes. How can we attract the foreign investors to our land if they, the foreign investors, their companies and their personnel would feel that their safety is being threatened constantly not just by petty street crimes but by criminal groups that prey on helpless foreigners doing business in our country?

Moreover, any marketing plan aimed at promoting the beauty of our country and attracting millions of tourists similar to what successful Asian neighbors have been doing in their tourism industry in order to better the lives of their people will not be effective if the perception that the Philippines is not a safe haven for foreigners and foreign investment persists.

I am appealing to the members of the Criminal Code Committee, in my capacity as head of the other branch of Congress, the Senate, to be meticulous in defining the crimes and the corresponding penalties that would be imposed. Currently, the penalties are light as against to the weight of the crime committed, thus encouraging people to flout or circumvent the law because they know that they can easily get away with the crimes they would commit.

The temptation to commit a crime is more difficult to resist if the economic benefits that can be derived from the criminal act are much bigger compared to the cost of committing the act. Having said that, it is my opinion that there is a need to revise, review and upgrade not only the extent of the criminal act to be defined but more importantly the magnitude and the degree of its impact on society in order to measure the correct penalties to be imposed.

I therefore commend the Department of Justice for adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to this need, involving various stakeholders in this endeavor. I am certain that you will have all areas covered and all issues and concerns addressed. I trust that with your expertise, legal experiences, competence and knowledge of the law and criminal procedure especially on the Rules of Evidence needed to convict criminal elements, it will not take long for you to finish the colossal task of crafting a new Philippine Criminal Code. But crafting a new Criminal Code will not be enough. We also have to review and revise our Rules of Criminal Procedure in order to see to it that the process of trial is achieved at the shortest possible time.

At this juncture, I would like to congratulate the hardworking and dynamic members of the Committee for completing the initial draft of Book I of the Criminal Code that we are planning to create. I must say that I am truly impressed by the dedication you have shown resulting in the completion of this initial draft.

Ladies and gentlemen, having a modern Criminal Code is a giant leap towards achieving our goal of creating meaningful reforms in our justice system. This is a legacy we can leave to with generation and the generations yet to be born.

Thank you very much and good day.

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