Stricter penalties for poll offenses pushed

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.23

A bill proposing stricter penalties for election violations was approved on second reading by the House of Representatives. The bill was authored by Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro), Erico Aumentado (Bohol) and Maximo Rodriguez, Jr. (Abante Mindanao party-list). The bill also intends to amend Section 45 of Republic Act 8189, or the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996, and portions of section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines.

House Bill 4145 (http://bit.ly/udjC2P) seeks to increase the penalty for committing election offenses, especially when violence, coercion and intimidation are involved in the commission of the offense or violation. Under the proposed law, the prison term of any person found guilty of any election offense will be increased from one year to six years, but not more than twelve years, without probation. Furthermore, the guilty party shall suffer “perpetual disqualification to hold public office and the deprivation of the right to suffrage.”

The bill also provides that any political party or aggrupation formed for political purposes of which the guilty person is a member shall be required to pay the fine of not less than Php 100,000.00 but not more than Php 500,000.00 “as part of the civil liability in connection with the election offense.” If proven guilty, a prisoner released for the purpose of committing an election offense shall be sentenced
with the penalty of reclusion perpetua. The head or the warden of the jail from which the guilty person was released will also suffer from the same sentence as the prisoner. The Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines provides that the warden and/or the inmate who committed the election offense shall “be sentenced to suffer the penalty of prison mayor (imprisonment of up to twelve years) in its
maximum period.” If the person charged with an election offense is a foreigner, he or she will face deportation after the prison term has been served.

The bill, once it becomes a law, will penalize members or officers of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) such as the members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), members of the Board of Canvassers (BOCs), or other agencies such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other paramilitary units who will be found guilty of election offense. They shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of up to twelve years if proven guilty.