MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives approved on second reading last June 4 a bill removing the right to bail in carjacking cases where the evidence against offenders is strong.
House Bill 4544, entitled, “Revised Anti-Carnapping Act,” also lengthens the jail terms for carjacking.
It defines carnapping as the “taking, with intent to gain, of a motor vehicle belonging to another without the latter’s consent, or by means of violence against or intimidation of persons, or by using force upon things.”
If the crime was committed without violence against or intimidation of persons or force upon things, the increased jail term would be 20 years to 30 years.
The present law, Republic Act (RA) 6539 or the Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972, provides a penalty of imprisonment from 14 years to 17 years for this type of carjacking.
If the crime was committed by means of violence against or intimidation of persons or force upon things, the House-approved bill seeks a prison term of 30 years to 40 years for the offender.
The present punishment is imprisonment of 17 years to 30 years.
Both HB 4544 and RA 6539 provide for the maximum penalty of life imprisonment on carjackers when the crime results in the death of the vehicle owner, driver or occupant.
The present law provides for a maximum punishment ranging from life imprisonment to death, but the martial law-vintage statute had been modified when Congress abolished the death penalty in mid-2006 during the Arroyo administration.
Calls from anti-crime watchdogs and families of carjacking victims for the restoration of the death penalty have not prompted lawmakers to revisit the abolition of capital punishment.
HB 4544 further provides that “any person charged with carnapping under this Act shall be denied bail when the evidence of guilt is strong.”
It also increases the penalties for persons who help commit the crime of carjacking or hide it, like Land Transportation Office and police personnel who falsify clearances and registration papers of stolen vehicles.
The penalties would be imprisonment of six years to 12 years, plus a fine equivalent to the acquisition cost of the motor vehicle. The present law provides for a jail term of two years to six years.
If the offender is a government official or employee, he or she would suffer the additional punishment of dismissal and perpetual disqualification from any appointive or elective office.
Authors of the bill include Jaye Noel of Malabon, Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City, Angelina Tan of Quezon, Winston Castelo of Quezon City, Irwin Tieng and Lito Atienza of Buhay, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Pampanga, Diosdado Arroyo of Camarines Sur, Rodel Batocabe and Christopher Co of Ako Bicol, Joaquin Chipeco Jr. of Laguna, and Maximo Rodriguez of Abante Mindanao.
Pangasinan Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas is a co-author as chairperson of the committee on revision of laws, which endorsed the plenary approval of the bill.
The authors said they hoped that the increased penalties and the removal of the right to bail would discourage carjackers.