With the failure of the Dominican Penal Code in the last legislature, which ended on August 16, a new chapter of analysis, discussions and modifications on this controversial piece of legislation that has been passed from one chamber of the National Congress for almost two decades, has been opened.
This week, after the Code was reintroduced, a commission of 27 senators and deputies has been formed and empowered for its study. Among them, they have discussed the future of this document that compiles all the sanctions that could be imposed for crimes and some general provisions at the legal level.
For years the Dominican Republic has been demanding a strong Penal Code in accordance with the new times, taking into account that the current one dates back to 1884.
The strongest points under discussion, which have delayed its approval, were, in principle, the controversial issue of the three grounds for abortion. This issue dropped from the media scene after the deputies approved in second reading the bill without the grounds, criminalizing the practice of abortion.
In addition, President Luis Abinader has indicated that he is in favor of the abortion issue to be dealt with in a special law or to wait for the referendum bill, so that the Dominican population can express their opinion in favor or against it.
So far, three bills have been introduced in the National Congress to modify the Penal Code, two of them coming from the Chamber of Deputies and one from the Senate of the Republic.
The piece of legislation has also been under the scrutiny of feminist organizations, doctors, religious, and lately, the civil society filed an action of preventive protection in the Superior Administrative Court (TSA) against the Penal Code bill, for allegedly leaving out articles 97 and 118 on discrimination for sexual orientation or preference, as well as discrimination for gender issues.
Different organizations have also set up camps, held marches and activities during the last months to oppose points they consider discriminatory.
Now a bicameral commission of 27 senators and deputies has been formed again to analyze some reforms to the law, which consists of more than 400 articles and which so far, within the modifications received in the last legislature, include the typifications related to corruption, cybercrime and the issue of the devil’s acid, which contains the “accumulation of penalties” of up to 50 years. There have also been added articles requiring the return of between three to 10 times what was stolen.
However, the legislators are still not satisfied with the code that will be delivered to the population.
Santiago Zorrilla chairs the commission for the Senate of the Republic and the members are Dionis Sánchez, Faride Raful, Yván Lorenzo, Antonio Taveras, Franklin Romero, Virgilio Cedano, Pedro Catrain and Ramón Rogelio Genao.
While, for the Chamber of Deputies, Alexis Jimenez represents as vice president of the commission, accompanied by members Ramon Mayobanex Martinez; Omar Fernandez; Jesus Sanchez; Luis Rafael Sanchez; Sadoky Duarte; Dario Zapata; Eugenio Cedeno; Santiago Vilorio; Lila Albuquerque; Victor Fadul; Plutarco Perez; Victor Suarez; Pedro Botello; Jose Horacio Rodriguez, Mateo Espaillat; Elias Wessin and Fior Daliza Peguero.
Thinking of the bicameral commission
The president of the commission, Santiago Zorrilla anticipates that in the coming works, the project will be enriched with the contributions made by different organizations of the country and the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic on issues related to corruption.
“This bill must guarantee the rights of the eleven million Dominicans and close the gap to organized crime, hardening penalties that are too light”, said the official senator, Antonio Taveras Guzman.
His colleague Franklin Romero, points out that, after this initiative perished in the last legislature, now it will start from scratch, and he does not see any way that progress can be made in a couple of months as has been said.
“The approval of the Penal Code was not achieved in the last legislature, now, with this debate that we are going to have, due to the interests involved, it will not be achieved either”, he indicated.
Likewise, the spokesman for the senators of the Fuerza del Pueblo party, Dionis Sánchez, said that the approval of a bicameral commission helps to speed up and sanction the bill. “We want to see if, once and for all, we get the possible law out,” he added.
Faride Raful has said that more time is needed to study it and give back to the population a decent code.
On his side, the spokesman for the PEDE party senators, Yván Lorenzo, has complained about the few debates to which the Penal Code has been subjected in the Senate.
Víctor Suárez, also a member of the PRI, affirms that in his 16 years as a deputy, the bicameral commissions have not had favorable situations when studying initiatives.
The senator and senior reformist leader, Ramon Rogelio Genao maintains that the necessary consensus must be built as soon as possible in order to approve the new Penal Code before the end of September. He indicated that this bill has been in legislative transit for 22 years “and five Congresses have vainly tried to pass it”.
The deputy and vice president of the bicameral commission, Alexis Jiménez, emphasizes that, as long as there are several crimes without being prosecuted as they should be, the country is being failed.
José Horacio Rodríguez, deputy for the National District, is of the opinion that “it must be avoided that by concentrating on controversial issues, in the new Penal Code, matters such as the fight against corruption are neglected”.
Meanwhile, Elías Wessin Chávez announced to have initiated contacts with the different actors of the electoral, political system and parties of the country, in order to approve an Electoral Code that corrects the imperfections of laws 33/18 of Parties and 15/19 of the Electoral Regime.
Some senators and deputies, members of this new commission have chosen to be more conservative, and both in the press and in their social networks, have avoided referring to the subject.