Philippine Daily Inquirer
Aquino against death penalty
By Norman Bordadora
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said Wednesday he would look into calls for the re-imposition of the death penalty but indicated that he was against reviving the capital punishment.
“I used to support the death penalty. But I had to reconsider that justice was not perfect,” Aquino said in an interview after the 65th anniversary celebration of the Liberal Party.
“So I had to change my position.... Since we cannot turn back the clock if we execute somebody, then we shouldn’t [impose the death penalty] in the off chance that we might render death penalty to somebody that’s not guilty,” he added.
Aquino made the remarks after a series of violent car theft-related murders renewed interest in the re-imposition of the death penalty.
Imperfect justice system makes PNoy frown on death penalty
President Benigno Aquino III is not keen on reimposing capital punishment, noting that the country's imperfect justice system may lead to the conviction of the wrong person.
At a press conference at the Liberal Party's 65th anniversary, Aquino said he will study emerging calls to reimpose the death penalty, "but the essence here is our judicial system is not perfect."
"There is a possibility that people can be wrongly convicted especially if they do not have the ability to secure competent counsel," Aquino said.
"Pag ipapasa natin ang death penalty, how do you turn back the clock if an innocent person is executed?" he added.
In an earlier interview on Unang Balita, Volunteer against Crime and Corruption (VACC) founding chairman Dante Jimenez said it is high time to revive capital punishment because of the resurgence of heinous crimes.
“Noong tinanggal ng administrasyong Gloria Arroyo ang parusang kamatayan noong 2006, kinatatakutan na namin ang paglala ng karumaldumal na mga krimen. Ngayon, bumalik na ang ganoong sitwasyon na dahilan upang ipatupad ang parusang kamatayan noong 1995," Jimenez said
(When death penalty was lifted in 2006, we already feared that heinous crimes would surge anew. Now, the situation that warranted the imposition of death penalty in 1995 is back.)
On the other hand, Aquino admitted he supported death penalty in the past, but said he had already changed his position. "I have to change my position since we cannot turn back the clock if we execute somebody who is not guilty."
"Kung perfect... yung ating judicial system, perhaps there is room for that [death penalty]. But if your economic status hinders you from hiring competent lawyers to help you, then there is a possibility that you will be wrongly convicted," Aquino said.
Calls for the re-imposition of the death penalty grew after the discovery of three charred remains, one of them belonging to the son of Marcos lawyer Oliver Lozano, in Central Luzon last week.
The three, two of them car dealers, were believed to be victims of a car theft syndicate since they were last seen accompanying prospective buyers for a test drive.
‘Knee jerk reaction’
Opposition lawmakers at the House of Representatives, on the other hand, said the "escalating criminality" in the country should not be used as “alibi" to reimpose death penalty.
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said that bringing back capital punishment in the Philippines would only be a “knee jerk" reaction to the recent spate of criminal incidents.
"It took us two decades to abolish death penalty. These incidents should not turn the clock and reinstate death penalty in the country," Lagman said at a press briefing on Wednesday.
He added that the Aquino administration should instead improve police enforcement and the imposition of existing laws to deter these crimes.
"I think this should be catching the criminals, prosecuting the criminals, and convicting the criminals," he said.
Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, for her part, said Aquino should set an example of strict enforcement of the law that police officers can follow.
"If the President shows that he is a hands-on person, somehow, it would deter these criminals from doing these crimes out in the open," she said.
Senate Bill 2383
At the Senate, there is a pending bill filed by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri calling for the re-imposition of the death penalty.
Zubiri filed Senate Bill 2383 in August last year following the killing of eight tourists from Hong Kong by dismissed police officer Rolando Mendoza.
On Wednesday, Senator Ramon Bong Revilla said that he was in favor of restoring the death penalty because of the recent spate of killings in the country.
"Criminals are becoming bolder. Hindi ko sukat maisip na may gagawa ng ganito (I never imagined that they were capable of doing this)," Revilla said.
In 2006, Revilla voted for the abolition of the death penalty. However, he said that times have changed and that the law must "cope" with these changes.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, for his part, said that he was "open" to the proposal.
"If there's a proposal to that effect, I am open, but we have to do it. If we are going to apply the law, apply it so that the society will feel it," Enrile said.
But Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Francis Escudero, and Ralph Recto were not in favor of the idea, saying that what the country needs is better law enforcement.
"It is certainty of punishment and not the kind of punishment that will deter crimes," Escudero told GMANews.TV in a text message on Wednesday.
“We do not support this. It is the certainty, not the severity, of punishment that brings fear in the hearts of would-be criminals. No matter how severe the penalty imposed, if convictions are few and far between, or cases drag on for years on end without punishment, then criminality will remain rampant," said Pangilinan in a separate text message.
Recto likewise said that there is a need to increase the number of equipped policemen on the streets.
The Death Penalty Law or Republic Act No. 7659 was passed in 1992 but was abolished in 2006 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo right before she flew to Vatican City to have an audience with the Pope.
Under RA 7659, heinous crimes are defined as being “grievous, odious and hateful offenses and which, by reason of their inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and perversity are repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society."