Abrigo: Bato to exhume death penalty

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THE moderately quiet voice of senator-elect Ronald dela Rosa will upswing its decibel to fortissimo level in his cry to restore death penalty, now that he is comfortably fifth in the senatorial race.

Capital punishment is inflicting in different methods like firing squad, electrocution, or lethal injection. His call will pass through a 50/50 chance and may experience one, if not all methods of inflictions in both chambers of Congress. Why? Both House Speaker Gloria Arroyo and Senate President Vicente Sotto III are villains in the capital punishment history; and they both have colossal influence in their respective spheres, unless of course the leadership in both houses will be changed.

Let us open the written history of death penalty in the Philippines and reevaluate the good and evil of the verdict. The first execution was on Feb. 17, 1872 in Bagumbayan wherein three Filipino Catholic priests: Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora (Gomburza) were sentenced for subversion in a Cavite mutiny against the Spanish colonial authorities.

Since then until 1961, there were 51 executions including that of our national hero Jose Rizal on Dec. 30, 1896 and Julio Guillien in 1950 for the assassination attempt on President Manuel Roxas. The youngest of all executed was Marcial “Baby” Ama, at age 16 who was electrocuted on Oct. 4, 1961.

Former president Ferdinand Marcos himself knew the loopholes about capital punishment because he himself was sentenced in 1939 for murdering Julio Nalundasan, a political rival of his father, but he appealed and was acquitted. The droll thing in his presidency happened in May 1972 when there was a notorious execution of another trio: Jaime Jose, Basilio Pineda and Edgardo Aquino for the abduction and gang rape of the young actress Maggie dela Riva. Not to argue the luck of the other accused, like in the case of Delia Smith a.k.a. Pepsi Paloma; but the execution brought a history of extensive flak against the unmerited conviction.

When freedom was restored, the 1987 Constitution prohibited death penalty. But in 1993 during the stint of Fidel Ramos, Republic Act 7659 restored capital punishment using a gas chamber, and Leo Echegaray was executed in 1999.

The revival of capital punishment will surely cast doubt if it hovers in Congress because it was during the time of then President Arroyo now the Speaker of the House that the imposition of death penalty was suspended through Republic Act 9346 that she signed into law on June 24, 2006.

The commutation into life imprisonment of the 1,230 inmates on death row in 2006 is a silent admission of the government that we have a pale justice system. In rundown, death penalty was buried; can senator-elect Ronald dela Rosa exhume and recycle the system for the drug traffickers?


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