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CHR hopes Lacson-Sotto will ‘turn the tide’ on death penalty push in Senate

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CHR hopes Lacson-Sotto will âturn the tideâ on death penalty push in Senate
This file photo taken on December 4, 2009 shows the witness room facing the execution chamber of the "death house" at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Ohio, US.
CAROLINE GROUSSAIN / Oklahoma Department of Corrections / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights on Friday welcomed Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Vicente Sotto III's withdrawal of support for the death penalty, hopeful that the development will impede proposals in the Senate to reinstate capital punishment in the Philippines. 

Lacson, who is seeking the presidency in 2022, revealed that he and his running-mate, Sotto, no longer support the death penalty after years of seeking its reimposition as lawmakers. The veteran lawmaker said his "perspective changed," and he realized that "it is more important to save the life of a wrongly convicted person."  

"Indeed, an imperfect criminal justice system may end an innocent life," CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said in a statement. "This recent development is a win for the sanctity of life."

"We also hope that this is enough to turn the tide in the Senate and halt the proposals to reintroduce capital punishment in the country," she added. "We ask other legislators who have given their support for this counterproductive measure to reconsider their position and urge them to affirm the right to life and dignity of all persons." 

Aside from the two measures previously proposed by Lacson and Sotto, there are at least six Senate bills seeking the reimposition of the death penalty in the 18th Congress. They were filed by Sens. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Imee Marcos, Manny Pacquiao and Ramon "Bong" Revilla. 

Pacquiao, also a presidential candidate, filed two of these bills, seeking the death penalty's reinstatement for the heinous crimes of kidnapping and homicide. 

Another Malacañang hopeful, Dela Rosa, in his own bill proposed capital punishment for those in violation of specific provisions of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

'Death penalty violates human dignity, ineffective at curbing crime'

Dumpit, who is the focal commissioner on the anti-death penalty, reiterated CHR's stance that capital punishment "violates human dignity and runs counter to the basic principles of human rights."

She emphasized further that the death penalty "is an ineffective measure to deter and curb criminality. The suspension of [the] death penalty in 2006 did not result [in] the increase in crimes." 

Dumpit said a study conducted by CHR found that support for capital punishment is motivated by people's desire to be safe. "The heightened fear of becoming a victim to a crime is pushing Filipinos to support harsher penalties." 

'Decongesting courts, expediting sentences better crime deterrents'

"However, the harshness of the penalty is not a deterrent but the certainty of punishment," she said. "In various advisories, we have stated that what deters crimes are the increased likelihood of apprehension and the certainty and immediacy of conviction, if one is proven guilty of committing a crime." 

"If the court dockets will be decongested and the more sentences will be handed down in an expeditious manner, this may prove to be the real deterrent to criminality." 

She also emphasized that placing convicted individuals should not be the end goal. 

"The swift administration of justice must be coupled with the rehabilitation of offenders. This is part of improving the criminal justice system." 

"Any discourse on sustained peace and order necessarily includes the reintegration of offenders to mainstream society," Dumpit stressed. "Thus, there is a need to strengthen restorative justice programs in the country." — Bella Perez-Rubio 

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