Death for killer cops? Congressmen divided
The debate on the revival of the death penalty was triggered by public indignation over the fatal shooting of Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank Anthony by police Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca in Paniqui town the video footage of which has gone viral on social media.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, file

Death for killer cops? Congressmen divided

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - December 24, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Proposals to revive the death penalty have re-emerged as a subject of debate in Congress, following Sunday’s chilling video footage of a policeman shooting an unarmed mother and her son to death in Tarlac.

Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, who chairs the dangerous drugs committee in the House of Representatives, led proponents of the measure to reinstate capital punishment.

But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, joined by the Makabayan bloc, also renewed his objection to the measure.

The debate on the revival of the death penalty was triggered by public indignation over the fatal shooting of Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank Anthony by police Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca in Paniqui town the video footage of which has gone viral on social media.

In an interview via Zoom, Barbers said they are hopeful that the bill, which was already passed by the chamber in the 17th Congress, would be enacted in this 18th Congress.

“I really hope this will be tackled soon. We already had preliminary hearings in the committee on justice, but I don’t know if there will be succeeding hearings,” the Surigao del Norte congressman said.

“I filed the same bill reviving death penalty on heinous crimes. But we had a problem because some of the members of the House and the Senate wanted imposition only on drug related offenses,” he added.

President Duterte has been pushing for the restoration of capital punishment not just for drug traffickers but for other heinous criminals as well, said the administration ally.

“I think this (bill) will move forward next year since our Speaker (Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco) and some senators have already expressed their support for the measure,” Barbers said.

In an earlier interview, Velasco urged lawmakers deliberating on the measure to consider including rape, apart from drug trafficking, as a crime punishable by death.

“These are unacceptable offenses that should be penalized to the extreme. I will push death penalty for those two crimes,” the Speaker said.

Yesterday, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa appealed to his colleagues in the Senate to support pending bills seeking to reimpose the death penalty and amend the Philippine National Police (PNP) law.

“All I’m asking is to have a Senate hearing on those (death penalty) bills because they were all filed at the start of the 18th Congress (in July 2019), so they have been there for years and not moving. There has not been a single hearing,” the senator told ANC.

He surmised that “those in the (Senate) committee (on justice and human rights) – where the bills are pending – don’t want it.”

The panel is chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, who is opposed to the reimposition of capital punishment.

Apart from Dela Rosa, other senators who filed similar proposals were Sherwin Gatchalian, Bong Go, Panfilo Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, Bong Revilla Jr. and Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

While the bills vary in the crimes punishable by death, Dela Rosa is optimistic a consolidated bill will emerge that may help push the measure to approval.

Opponents of the measure in the House like Lagman argued it is a “brutal violation of the right to life, a serious transgression of human rights and a patent abandonment of our international commitments against imposing capital punishment.”

“The solution to the rampant and senseless killings is not the re-imposition of the death penalty, but the dismantling of the culture of violence which no less than the Duterte administration has encouraged, tolerated and condoned,” he said.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas also argued that death penalty would not meet its objective of deterring heinous crimes and would only allow abuses in the justice system.

“The defects of our judicial and legal processes that enable impunity cannot be cured by the re-imposition of the death penalty. We firmly believe that death penalty will never solve social ills and will only be imposed on ordinary citizens,” she said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite agreed, saying capital punishment would not address police brutality and extrajudicial killings, which he said are the real problems.

For Secretary Eduardo Año of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), law enforcers involved in heinous crimes deserve the death penalty.

Año said capital punishment would also ensure that all men in uniform will be deterred from committing crimes.

Describing Nuezca as a “cold-blooded murderer,” the DILG chief told dzBB in an interview in Filipino: “If only we had the death penalty, I want these police who’re supposed to uphold the law but break them in the form of heinous crimes should really get the death penalty.”

Earlier, Año promised swift justice for the Gregorio family as the DILG also works double-time to rebuild the reputation of the PNP, which had been tarnished by the incident.

He shared data from the DILG showing that 16,839 police officers have been penalized since the start of the Duterte administration as part of the PNP’s internal cleansing program.

But he appealed to the public, saying in Filipino: “The sin of a few rotten cops is not the sin of the 220,800-strong police organization. Our police bravely and faithfully serve the public. Let’s not forget that.”

Meanwhile, Dela Rosa pushed for major amendments to Republic Act 6975, which created the PNP, and RA 8551, which reorganized the police force to strengthen the institution’s weak disciplinary mechanisms.

A former PNP chief, the senator said the laws do not equip the PNP chief with enough powers to deal with scalawags, unlike in the Armed Forces in which a company commander can immediately order an abusive soldier to the stockade.

He pointed out that the PNP’s Internal Affairs Division is severely undermanned and the law has loopholes that allow dismissed police officers to be reinstated.

In the case of Nuezca, Dela Rosa said he believes the suspect is a drug addict, having refused to undergo drug testing in the past as stated in PNP records. – Romina Cabrera, Paolo Romero

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