Atienza: ‘Qualified reclusion perpetua’ over death penalty

Mara Cepeda

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Atienza: ‘Qualified reclusion perpetua’ over death penalty
Buhay Party-list Representative wants heinous crimes convicts to be punished with a minimum of 40 years in prison as well as productive labor to compensate the victims' families

MANILA, Philippines – Buhay Party-list Representative Lito Atienza wants President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to consider a “harsher” form of lifelong incarceration for heinous crimes convicts instead of the death penalty.  

Atienza, in a statement, said on Sunday, June 19, that he plans to file a bill that would define a new mode of life imprisonment for serious offenders, which he calls “qualified reclusion perpetua,” once the 17th Congress opens next month. 

Duterte already said he would urge Congress to restore the death penalty by hanging, but Atienza said this “leaves no room for rectification.”

“We cannot bring a dead convict back to life, even if another party later on confesses to having committed the crime for which the convict had been wrongfully condemned,” said Atienza in a statement. (READ: A shame for PH if death penalty is reimposed – groups

Instead, he is proposing that a convict would stay in prison for a minimum of 40 years or until he or she attains the age of 70, whichever comes first, before becoming eligible for parole. 

“Convicts drawing the new sentence would effectively spend their natural lives behind bars, with the accessory penalty compelling them to provide full restitution to their victims, or to their victims’ families,” said Atienza.

He explained that the “reclusion perpetua” punishment currently stipulated in the Revised Penal Code only provides for a maximum penalty of 30 to 40 years in prison. The convict becomes eligible for possible conditional early release after 15 to 20 years. 

The convict is also entitled to good conduct or loyalty allowances as well as a reduction of sentence for preventive detention or for time spent in jail prior to conviction, Atienza added.

“But under our proposal, all these allowances and the benefit of reduced sentence for preventive detention would not apply to convicts sentenced to qualified reclusion perpetua,” he said. 

The former Manila City mayor turned lawmaker also wants heinous crime convicts to perform productive labor while in prison and for their earnings be placed in a fund to “indemnify” their victims.  

Atienza wants to implement this by calling on the Department of Justice to establish a new Victim’s Indemnification Fund. 

“Our alternative is tantamount to locking up a convict and throwing away the key,” said Atienza, who previously backed Duterte’s tough stance against crime but also cautioned against the “reckless” revival of the death penalty.

“Just the same, we categorically maintain that raising the certainty of punishment, as opposed to increasing the severity of the penalty itself, is the strongest deterrence to potential offenders. If there was 100 percent assurance of being apprehended and imprisoned for committing a crime, fewer people would do so,” he added. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.