The House of Representatives has started the debates on the bill to reinstate death penalty in the country. It is no secret that President Rodrigo Duterte is the leading proponent of this bill which is the reason why his allies in Congress are working double time to pass the proposed measure.
I stand against death penalty for any crime.
Memories come back of that time when in 1999, women leaders, including myself, came out in public opposing death penalty for the then convicted rapist Leo Echegaray. He was the first to be executed after the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1993, and the passage of the anti-rape law in 1997.
My group was among those that worked for almost 10 years to get the anti-rape law passed. We started the advocacy when there was no death penalty yet and we wanted the severest punishment for rapists, but certainly not death.
I remember that people were puzzled about our opposition to convicted child rapist Echegaray’s execution when we were the ones who worked for the anti-rape law. Did he not deserve it? Wasn’t that what you wanted? What about justice to the girl he abused? These were but some of the questions thrown our way.
Our coming out was difficult. I remember the long discussions that took place before we faced the media. We were not softening in how we viewed Echegaray. In fact, we were furious at the crime he committed. But we wanted to respond to questions adequately and make clear our nuanced position because we knew that some saw it as inconsistent with our being anti-rape and anti-violence against women.
We made our anti-death penalty position public not because we believed that Echegaray was innocent. We never wavered in our anti-VAW position. However, we firmly believed (and many of us still do), that death penalty will not solve criminality, and more specifically, will not deter the commission of rape. We also believed that the right to life is paramount as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that the State should not take it away.
Did the execution of Echegaray and others convicted of heinous crimes deter criminality? No. After Echegaray, there were others who were meted the same fate. Even during the years when there was death penalty, rampant criminality remained as a major problem in the country. The Philippine experience on death penalty points to the fact that it does not deter the commission of crimes.
Various studies on the death penalty in other countries have concluded that there is no evidence showing deterrence. For instance, the US-based National Research Council of the National Academies released a report in 2012 “based on a review of more than three decades of research concluded that the studies claiming a deterrent effect on murder rates from the death penalty are fundamentally flawed. The report concluded that the research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates.”
The argument that death penalty is a deterrent to crime, therefore, is a myth.
In our own setting, the death penalty can very well be anti-poor. We all know how rotten our justice system is. It is protracted, complex, and EXPENSIVE. Oh, and the corruption is common knowledge. Undoubtedly, our system favors the rich.
Moreover, this administration is not known as a stickler for due process. In fact, many of our leaders seem to dislike it as shown by the more than 7,000 deaths brought about by the President’s war against drugs.
Poor innocent suspects are without the capacity to fight to prove their innocence. How can they afford adequate representation? Our Public Attorneys Office (PAO) is saddled with thousands and thousands of cases and acutely lacks human resources. How can it possibly defend to the fullest their indigent clients. The odds are against poor suspects. The possibility of being convicted despite innocence is high.
A wrong conviction meted with death penalty cannot be rectified. A life lost cannot be brought back, no magic can. Shall we just let innocent suspects die just because they are poor?
It is also the worst time to even discuss the death penalty.
People’s trust in our law enforcers is most probably at its lowest. What with the rouge police who kill for money? Can we really trust them to make lawful arrests? What if moneyed criminals pay to cover their crimes and instead accuse some poor persons as perpetrators of crimes they themselves committed? It is not the time to discuss death penalty when among our law enforcers are law breakers who will do anything for money.
Another strong argument against the reimposition of death penalty especially at this time is the recent HOR decision to remove plunder from the recommended list of crimes punishable by death. This of course, was done to favor the corrupt in government. However, if our lawmakers really believe that death penalty is a deterrent to crime, and if they want to erase corruption and plunder from the vocabulary of politicians, they should have retained it.
There simply is no logic in removing plunder from the list if they believe in their own argument of deterrence.
There is a reason why most countries, 102 in total, have abolished the death penalty. It is because beyond being barbaric, it does not work. In the Philippines, it did not work and will not work especially now.
We must all say NO TO DEATH PENALTY.
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