Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a bill which seeks to lower from five to two the number of persons involved in fraud to qualify for the crime of syndicated estafa or other forms of swindling to be punishable by life imprisonment.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, filed Senate Bill 1307 which seeks to amend Section 1 of the 40-year-old Presidential Decree (PD) 1689 by reducing from five to two persons who are involved to qualify for syndicated estafa.
“[T]o properly punish the syndicates behind these elaborate scams, we need to revise our existing law to punish offenders with a minimum required number in a group,” she said.
“”This way, less burden is placed upon our law enforcers to arrest all the offenders immediately, and at least two members of the syndicate can already be put to trial,” she added.
Under Section 1 of PD 1689, syndicated estafa and other forms of swindling shall be punishable by life imprisonment to death if it is committed by a syndicate consisting of five or more persons.
When not committed by a syndicate of five or more, the penalty that the court can be imposed shall be reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua if the amount of the fraud exceeds 100,000 pesos.
The lady Senator from Bicol explained that some people accused of syndicated estafa often evade the higher penalty because the aggrieved party could not establish the commission of crime was conspired or confederated by five or more persons.
“Syndicated estafa is a social menace that not only preys on our countrymen, but also erodes our faith in our economic system. While there are those who operate alone, most operate in a group,” she said.
“By using elaborate scams to abuse the confidence of their victims, the perpetrators who operate in groups are able to commit this crime against multiple victims and over an extended period of time,” she added.
According to De Lima, there is a need for a redefinition of the crime of syndicated estafa in order to protect the public from a systematic fraud that erodes the people’s confidence in the banking and cooperative system.
“We have all heard their story – of how life savings dried up after having been persuaded by those whose aim was nothing but to abuse the confidence reposed in them,” she said. (30)/FJM