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Monday, September 16, 2019
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Tell it to SunStar: Death penalty

THERE was no need for President Rodrigo Duterte to tell Congress during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 22 to enact a bill re-imposing the death penalty. Since Duterte took power on June 30, 2016, the regime has imposed death penalty on thousands of poor drug suspects without benefit of judicial trial.

As an admission that criminality is on the rise, the government, aside from inflicting extrajudicial killings on its people, has to enact a law imposing death penalty as an alleged deterrence against heinous crimes.

But world-wide research conducted by various psychologists, sociologists, and criminologists yielded the findings that death penalty has never been an effective deterrence to the commission of heinous crimes. The execution of rape convict Leo Echegaray on Jan. 4, 1999 did not lower the incidence of rape cases in the country. It is not the severity of the punishment but the certainty of being caught and prosecuted that deters the commission of heinous crimes.

Another valid reason why death penalty should not be restored is the lopsided imperfections of our justice system. The practice of some policemen of planting evidence, unprincipled overzealous prosecutors, inept and overworked defense counsels, perjured witnesses, coerced confession, and reliance on dubious testimony of witnesses rather than on modern technology-all these contribute to wrongful convictions in trial courts.

The unreliability of our justice system was admitted by no less than our Supreme Court in the case of People vs. Mateo (July 2004). In that case, the High Court revealed that in 71.77 percent of lower court decisions imposing the death penalty, the judges were wrong. This figure is quite alarming. The Supreme Court made the following observations:

“Statistics would disclose that within the eleven-year period since the re-imposition of the death penalty law in 1993 until June 2004, the trial courts have imposed capital punishment in approximately 907 out of 1,493 cases have been passed upon in review by the Court. In the Supreme Court, where these staggering numbers find their way on automatic reviews, the penalty has been affirmed in 230 cases comprising but 25.36 percent of the total number.

Significantly, in more than half or 64.61 prcent of the cases, the judgment has been modified through order of remand for further proceedings, by applications of the Indeterminate Sentence Law or by a reduction of the sentence. Indeed, the reduction by the Court of the death penalty to reclusion perpetua has been made in no less than 483 cases or 53.25 percent of the total number. The Court has also rendered a judgment of acquittal in 65 cases.

In sum, the cases where the judgment of death has either been modified or vacated consist of an outstanding 71.77 percent of the total death penalty case directly elevated before the Court on automatic review that translates to a total of 651 out of 907 appellants saved from lethal injection.”

The greatest danger as a result of wrongful convictions in the imposition of death penalty is the fact that death is irreversible. In case of erroneous conviction and the accused is executed but years after the true offender is caught and confesses to the crime, what a gross injustice shall have been committed by the State! Can we bring back to life this mistakenly condemned man?


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