Congress proposes higher penalties for election offenses attended by violence

The House of Representatives is proposing increased penalties for election-related offenses as provided under House Bill 4145.

Under the bill, any person found guilty of an election offense or of a prohibited act under Sections 261 and 262 in relation to Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, as amended, and Section 45 of RA 8189 shall be imprisoned for not less than 12 years and one day but not more than 20 years.

It mandates that if the crimes defined in the Revised Penal Code are committed in connection with an election or political exercise, such election-related element shall be appreciated as an aggravating circumstance in imposing the appropriate penalty.

Likewise, if the subject offense is punishable both under the Omnibus Election Code and the Revised Penal Code, the bill provides that the same shall be prosecuted separately and concurrently under the two laws.

For other election offenses under the Omnibus Election Code not attended by violence, coercion, intimidation, force or threats, the measure provides the penalty of imprisonment of not less than six years and one day but not more than 12 years.

It further states that political party, political coalition, party-list or aggrupation organized for political purpose to which guilty party member is a member shall pay a fine of not less than P500,000 as part of the civil liability in connection with the election offense.

The bill also mandates that if the person found guilty is a foreigner, he shall be deported after his service of the imposed prison term.

If the offender is an illegally released prisoner, the penalty of reclusion perpetua shall be imposed.

Another provision of the measure is that the maximum penalties shall also be imposed upon officer or employee of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Police Force, Special Force, Home Defense Forces, Barangay Self-Defense Units and all other para-military units, for both election offense committed with violence and for other election offenses.

The bill, which has been approved on third and final reading, is currently pending in the Senate.