Death penalty
FROM THE STANDS (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2016 - 12:00am

One of the controversial pronouncements (and there are many)) of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is his espousal (not spouses) of the return of the death penalty which has drawn flak from Catholic and Protestant churches, Amnesty International, and individuals. In a press conference he allowed after he was declared winner of the May 9 presidential election, he said he would reintroduce capital punishment and give security forces “shoot-to-kill” orders in his war against crime, and he will urge Congress to restore the death penalty by hanging. Needless to say, people who are in agreement with him say they’re sick and tired and afraid of drug lords and rapists and kidnappers and murderers that’s why the need for capital punishment.

In a BizNews Asia story, Duterte is reported to have said he will plead to Congress to restore the death penalty by hanging, “for heinous crimes, crimes committed with unlicensed firearms must (be dealt) death. Rape plus death of the victim must be death penalty. Kidnapping with ransom and murder, death penalty. (For) robbery with homicide with rape, double the hanging. After you are hanged first, there will be another ceremony . . . until the head is completely severed from the body. I would like that because I am mad.”

The Philippine STAR banner story in yesterday’s issue was dramatically headlined thus: “Church: Shun culture of death.” Veteran reporter Ed Punay wrote of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle’s “oratio imperata” or mandatory prayer to be distributed in parishes enjoining the faithful to value human life and shun a “culture of death.” Punay said the pastoral letter was released “as seven more suspected drug dealers were gunned down by police (as of June 19), bringing the total body count since the election victory of Duterte to 42.”

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines has long declared its philosophy that the death penalty “violates our deepest belief in God as the creator and the redeemer of human life. In this respect, there can be no assertion that human life can be taken humanely by the state. In the long run, the use of death penalty will increase the acceptance of revenge in our society and will give official sanction to a climate of violence. The NCCP argues that “execution prevents the repentance and rehabilitation of offenders is contrary to Christian love and violates the sanctity of human life.”

Amnesty International, a staunch defender of human rights, declares that sentencing someone to death “denies them the right to life which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Execution, it says, “is the ultimate, irrevocable punishment: the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated.” Since 1973, AI says, 150 US prisoners sent to death row were later exonerated, and others have been executed despite serious doubts about their guilt.

Execution does not deter crime, says AI. Countries “commonly cite the death penalty as a way to deter people from committing crime. This claim has been repeatedly discredited, and there is no evidence that the death penalty is any more effective in reducing crime than imprisonment.”

With help from Wikipedia, we have the history of the forms of death penalty used in this country. During the Spanish colonial rule, the most common methods of execution were death by firing squad (for treason/military crimes for independence fighters), and garrote (as the method used on the Gomburza).

National hero Jose Rizal was executed by firing squad.

The United States’ colonial Insular government used the electric chair in 1926, making the Philippines the only other country to employ the method.

From 1946 to 1961, 51 people were electrocuted. President Ferdinand Marcos was sentenced to death in 1939 for the murder of his father’s political rival, Julio Nalundasan, but he was acquitted on appeal. A triple execution took place in May 1972, when Jaime Jose, Basilio Pineda and Edgardo Aquino were electrocuted for the 1967 abduction and gang-rape of young actress Maggie dela Riva. The electric chair was used until 1976, to be replaced by firing squad as the sole method of execution.

Under the Marcos regime, drug trafficking was punishable by death by firing squad, the first case being Lim Seng.

After Marcos was deposed in 1986, the newly drafted 1987 Constitution prohibited the death penalty but allowed Congress to reinstate a “hereafter” for heinous crimes,” making the Philippines the first Asian country to abolish capital punishment.

Respected constitutionalist and academician Jose “Pepe” Abueva gives us a summary of congressional and executive actions on the death penalty in his column, “ A Boholano’s View,” which appears in the Bohol Chronicle.

*Article III, Bill of Rights, Section 19 of the Philippine Constitution provides that “Executive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it. Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment).

“President Corazon C. Aquino certified as urgent a bill proposing death as punishment for rebellion after the bloody coup in 1989. A new death penalty law, Republic Art 7659, was imposed by President Fidel V. Ramos on Dec. 31, 1993.

“President Joseph Estrada ordered the deaths of seven men. On March 24, 2000, he declared a “moratorium”: on executions to celebrate the 2,000th birthday of Jesus Christ.

“President Gloria Mapacapagal Arroyo extended this moratorium. On April 15, 2006, she commuted to life imprisonment the capital penalty imposed on all death row inmates, which had at that time ballooned to a staggering 1,230.

“Finally, on June 24, 2006, Republic Act 9346 abolished the death penalty. This was the day before she left for the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.”

Well-meaning that Duterte may be, his wish for a death penalty for criminals will not be a demand on Congress which will have to approve and pass a bill renewing the death penalty.

One of the re-elected congressmen has already in mind the filing of legislation that would punish heinous crime convicts with a harsher form of lifelong incarceration, instead of death by hanging. Buhay Representative Lito Atienza says, “Our alternative is tantamount to locking up a convict and throwing away the key.’’

Atienza previously backed Duterte’s aggressive stance against crime, but now he cautions against the ”reckless” revival of the death penalty.

“We categorically maintain that raising the certainty of punishment, as opposed to increasing the severity of the penalty itself, is the strongest deterrent to potential offenders,” Atienza said.

The lawyer calls for a “total war” on widespread corruption in law enforcement, the prosecution service, the judiciary, and correctional bureaus, saying that “A criminal justice system in tiptop condition is the surest way to guarantee arrest and punishment.”

Under his proposal, those found guilty of grave crimes would receive a new sentence called ”qualified reclusion perpetua” in lieu of the death penalty which had been long abandoned by 140 countries, including the Philippines. This means that a convict would stay in prison for an absolute minimum of 40 years or until he or she attains the age of 70 years.

He said heinous crime convicts must perform productive labor while in prison, with the earnings derived therefrom to be placed in a fund to indemnify their victims.

*      *      *

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

 

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