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PH officials explore decriminalization of abortion and libel to ease jail overcrowding

Philippine officials are contemplating the decriminalization of certain offenses such as libel, abortion, and dueling. The proposal emerged during the National Decongestion Summit, where representatives from the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches of the government convened.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez emphasized the need for a comprehensive review of the Revised Penal Code, asserting that an overhaul is essential to address jail congestion effectively.

“This review will evaluate the deterrent impact of current crime classifications and contemplate decriminalizing specific offenses like libel, abortion, and dueling,” Romualdez explained.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri acknowledged the importance of studying the potential decriminalization of certain offenses while expressing a personal stance against abortion.

“Let’s study it. I don’t want to make a comment at this point in time. Let’s study it thoroughly, but personally, I am anti-abortion; all life, for me, is sacred at any moment of conception,” Zubiri remarked.

According to the Justice Sector Coordinating Council, out of the 199,000 persons deprived of liberty, 70 percent are in preventive detention, while 30 percent have already been convicted and sentenced. Jails managed by the Bureau of Jail Management currently operate at a congestion rate of 386 percent.

Decriminalizing specific offenses is being considered as both a short-term and long-term solution to the congestion issue. This approach also involves eliminating quotas for arrests among law enforcement agencies.

While Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo refrained from commenting on the decriminalization of certain offenses, he highlighted ongoing reforms within the country’s penal system.

“We are making numerous changes in the Supreme Court. For instance, we are revising the rules on criminal procedures to ensure the expeditious processing of criminal cases from start to finish,” Gesmundo stated.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu underscored the necessity of rehabilitation reforms, particularly for prisoners, including terrorists.

Yu warned that without proper rehabilitation, incarcerated terrorists might emerge more extreme, potentially radicalizing others. In the context of overcrowded jails, achieving successful rehabilitation becomes a challenging task, according to Yu.

Staff Report

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