Death penalty gets House panel's nod

THE restoration of capital punishment in the Philippines is now slated for plenary debates, as the House justice committee on Wednesday approved a report containing the substitute bill that would allow death penalty back in the country's criminal justice system.

The panel approved the report with 12 votes on the affirmative, six negative and one abstention.

The bill – a consolidation of seven House bills of the same intent – has enumerated heinous crimes punishable by death penalty, namely: Treason; Piracy in general and mutiny on the high seas or in Philippine water; Qualified piracy; Qualified bribery; Parricide; Murder; Infanticide; Rape; Kidnapping and serious illegal detention; Robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons; Destructive arson; Plunder; Possession of dangerous drugs; Carnapping, among others.

The mode of capital punishment could either be through hanging, by firing squad or lethal injection.

In a statement, Dinagat Island Representative Kaka Bag-ao explained why she voted against the bill, saying “it is a disservice to our values as Filipinos.”

"They say we are waging a war against drugs, a war against crime—but why is it turning into a war against the poor?”

Bag-ao cited the lack of statistics on the country’s crime rates, which are crucial in helping lawmakers judiciously decide on the measure.

She also said there is a need to propose reforms on the administration of justice.

“There is no clear evidence or study presented that would justify death penalty as an effective deterrent to crime. Even the secretary of the Department of Justice, who attended one of the hearings, said that there are neither studies conducted nor any empirical data presented to justify the reimposition of death penalty,” Bag-ao said.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan also reacted on the development, expressing disagreement that death penalty is the answer to lawlessness and criminality.

"Modernizing our justice system is the key to end lawlessness and criminality. It is swift punishment and the immediate disposition of cases pending before our courts, regardless of penalties involved, and not the reimposition of death penalty, that will restore respect for the rule of law in the country,” Pangilinan said.

Leyte Representative Vicente Veloso, justice committee vice-chair, said death penalty is necessary to scare off repeat offenders.

Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas argued that the Constitution gives Congress the power to reinstate death penalty for heinous crimes and the compelling reasons for its reimposition can be debated once the bill is tackled at the plenary.

Fariñas, co-author of the bill, said the only choice we have now to solve criminality is either death penalty or extrajudicial killing (EJK).

“What do we want EJK or JK (judicial killing)? At least ‘yung judicial killing (death penalty) may due process,” Fariñas said.

The imposition of death penalty has been suspended since 2006 with the enactment of Republic Act 9346, or An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines.

President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly declared he wanted capital punishment reimposed on heinous crimes, especially on criminals involved in drug-trafficking.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, one of the authors of the consolidated death penalty bills, has vowed the passage of the measure at the House of Representatives before Congress adjourns for the Christmas break.

Death penalty is among the top priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte and was also the first bill filed at the House of Representatives in this 17th Congress. (With reports from PNA)
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