Wenceslao: No for the death penalty

I AM against the re-imposition of the death penalty because I have been against capital punishment from the beginning. I have known in my younger years of many cases of death being imposed as a punishment and realized that, if the justice system is faulty, imposing the death penalty is as wrong as summarily executing suspected criminals. I have known of people who were wrongly accused and killed.

After the House justice committee voted in favor of House Bill 1 that seeks to reimpose the death penalty, the bill goes to the House plenary for second reading, which is the time when a measure is debated on. House members from Cebu are divided on the issue, based on media interviews of some of them.

In Cebu City, north district Rep. Raul del Mar has not changed his anti-death penalty stance while south district Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa said he will consult first with his constituents. In the province, fourth district Rep. Benhur Salimbangon and fifth district Rep. Ramon “Red” Durano IV are for the death penalty re-imposition. We still have to hear about the stand of first district Rep. Gerald Anthony Gullas, third district Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, sixth district Rep. Jonas Cortes, seventh district Rep. John Peter Calderon and Lapu-Lapu Rep. Aileen Radaza.

Those who are against the death penalty like me are ably represented by del Mar. While he has obviously slowed down with age, he remains a respected voice in the House and knows what he is talking about, as he was one of the authors of Republic Act (RA) 9346 that repealed RA 7659 or the Death Penalty Law in 2006. Interestingly, Gullas's grandpa, former first district congressman Eduardo Gullas, also voted for the repeal of the death penalty law at that time.
I only knew him as “James.” A frail framed youth with an easy smile, he was always present in the many protest actions in the late seventies. I got to know him in my early participation in the struggle against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. One scene that was etched in my mind was the rally whose assembly area was the Redemptorist Church grounds. He was eating Sky Flakes biscuits for lunch.

“James” was always inconspicuous, the reason why he could be easily forgotten. I lost track of him when my participation in the struggle deepened and the many challenges came our way. I think it was in 1988, when talks about the errors in the conduct of the purge by the Left of so-called deep penetration agents, that somebody reminded me of “James.” He was supposedly one of those executed in the purge in Mindanao.

It was then that I began to worry about the Left's underdeveloped justice system. I recalled my readings about the history of the struggle in other countries, like the purges by the Chinese Communist Party during its Cultural Revolution and the later inner party struggle that resulted in the execution of the “Gang of Four” that included the late Mao Zedong's wife Jiang Qing. And, of course, there was Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge's “killing fields” in Cambodia.

That time, I told myself that the bourgeois setup, wherein a suspect is accorded due process and allowed to be represented by a legal counsel in a hearing that has a bias for pieces of evidence and testimony of witnesses, was definitely better. It at least professes to give protection to the rights of the accused.

Of course, it has its faults, like its being biased in favor of the rich and its conviction of innocents, mostly the poor, the reason why I oppose the re-imposition of the death penalty. But the setup was better than the one we had that time.

(khanwens@gmail.com/ twitter: @khanwens)
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