De Lima calls for tougher stance vs death penalty revival

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has renewed her call for a tougher stance against the possible revival of a measure reimposing death penalty law for heinous crimes in the country in the coming 18th Congress dominated by administration allies.

De Lima maintained that “true and lasting solution” in fighting the worsening problem of criminality under the Duterte administration lies in legislation upholding restorative justice and pushing for prosecution and judicial reforms.

“In these times where great powers are concentrated on a single human being who with mere words – God forbid – can masterfully orchestrate a holocaust, we should be ever vigilant, ever firm with our stand against its re-imposition,” she said.

“I believe that what deters and resolves crimes is a well-oiled and thoroughly functioning criminal justice system, one that ensures swift and ascertain accountability for the crimes committed and the imposition of commensurate penalties to the offenders,” she added.

De Lima’s message was read by Marita Wasan of Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas at the 13th anniversary of the signing of the abolition of death penalty in the Philippines organized by the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care and the Coalition against Death Penalty at the CBCP Chapel, Intramuros, Manila last June 20.

Note that in the 17th Congress, a measure reinstating the death penalty for heinous crimes, including drug-related offenses, has been approved at the House of Representatives but has yet to be tackled at the committee level at the Senate.

Duterte and his allies in Congress have consistently pushed for the reinstatement of death penalty – which was brought back under then president Fidel Ramos’ administration and abolished anew under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Majority of the incoming senators allied with the President, including, among others, Senators-elect Christopher Go, Ronald de la Rosa, Francis Tolentino, and Pia Cayetano, have supported the re-imposition of capital punishment.

Other senators who support the death penalty’s revival are Senators Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara and Koko Pimentel III (only for high-level drug trafficking), and Manny Pacquiao, Sherwin Gatchalian, Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, maintained that the poor and powerless will greatly suffer the dire repercussion of reviving death penalty because they have no access to pricey legal services.

“In a country where the poor outnumber the wealthy by a mile, socio-economic realities have skewed the implementation of the law on death penalty against the former,” she said.

“We have yet to see a person who has money or power truly suffer for their crimes. Former President Estrada was pardoned soon after being convicted of plunder. Former First Lady and Congresswoman Imelda Marcos continues to be out on paltry bail even after being convicted of multiple counts of graft,” she recounted.

De Lima, a former justice secretary under the Aquino administration, pointed out that despite seven death penalty executions under the Estrada administration from 1998 to 1999, the crime rate further increased by 15.3 percent.

She also recalled that the Supreme Court has admitted that the Philippines’ trial courts have committed a judicial error rate of 71.77 percent when death penalty was still imposed.

“With that level of reversal rate, imagine how many people will have been wrongly executed. Even with judicial reforms, there is no way that we will reach a level of reliability to justify the re-imposition of capital punishment,” said the lady senator.

In her efforts on deterring criminal activities, De Lima has filed a package of Senate bills that are meant to strengthen the justice institutions in the Philippines and equip them with additional weapons in the fight against criminality. These include, among others, Senate Bill (SB) No. 369 or Criminal Investigation Act of 2016, SB No. 368 or an Act Punishing Extraordinary Crimes with Qualified Reclusion Perpetua and Prohibiting Imposition of Death Penalty, SB No. 1677 or an Act Providing for Rules on Plea Bargaining Agreement in Criminal Cases, and SB No. 1879 or an Act Instituting a Unified Corrections and Jail Management System.

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