What Is a Heinous Crime?

Manila Bulletin, December 11, 2003 | Go to article overview

What Is a Heinous Crime?


WHILE the Death Penalty Law (RA 7659) imposes capital punishment on convicted offenders of crimes covered by that law, nowhere does it explain what a heinous crime is. The Constitution forbids imposition of the death penalty unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes.

But what is a heinous crime? We may know what it means by referring to the way Congress describes it in the preamble of the law. Since the Constitution uses this phrase, Congress should have defined the term in the Act so the criminals will know the meaning and stop calling it anus crime.

* * *

One whereas of this Act reads: Whereas, the crimes punishable by death under this Act are heinous for being grievous, odious and hateful offenses and which, by reason of their inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and perversity are repugnant and outrageous to the common standards, and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society;... Now, even without adding one more adjective, detestable, we can more or less recognize what a heinous crime is. But how will we know what crimes in the Revised Penal Code (RPC) are heinous?

* * *

Note that this Act, RA 7659, is not a basic or original law. It is an amendment to some articles in the RPC. The amendment consists in penalizing the offenses, covered by the articles concerned, with the maximum penalty, which is death. In addition to the amendment on penalties, some elements of the crimes and related circumstances covered by the articles involved, were also amended in support of the death penalty. As this discussion goes further, it will be clear that a heinous crime is not punished only by a single indivisible penalty death. It may be punished by two indivisible penalties.

* * *

The law, RA 7659, may have prescribed Death as the single indivisible penalty for a particular heinous crime. In this case, whatever circumstance attended in the heinous crime, the penalty is death. Some heinous crimes may be punished either with one of two periods or indivisible penalties Reclusion Perpetua to Death. If the offender is favored with a mitigating circumstance, he may be punished with Reclusion Perpetua (life sentence); but if aggravating, he gets Death. If there is neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstance, he still gets the lesser penalty (reclusion perpetua).

* * *

But a heinous crime, covered by RA 7659 provides punishments involving three periods: Reclusion Temporal (divisible), Reclusion Perpetua (indivisible), and Death (indivisible). If there is no aggravating nor mitigating circumstance present, the applicable penalty is Reclusion Perpetua; if only mitigating present, the penalty is Reclusion Perpetua, and if an aggravating circumstance attends, the penalty is Death. …

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