Aquino not keen to revive death penalty

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

(UPDATED) President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday reiterated his stand against the revival of capital punishment in the country.

In an ambush interview Wednesday, Aquino said the country's judicial system is not perfect but stressed that applying the death penalty, by way of lethal injection, to an innocent person can be a nightmare.

"The more effective deterrent is jailing and penalizing the offender. To take away his life is not the solution. What if he is innocent of the crime? You cannot bring back his life," Aquino said in Filipino.

The President said that he was once an advocate of the death penalty and his mother, the late President Cory Aquino, explained to him the risk of an imperfect justice system.

Aquino said that one cannot turn back the clock if the court will find out later that the person is not guilty of the offense charged.

"What will you do if he is already dead," he said.

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday filed a bill seeking the reinstatement of the death penalty law, saying that there are apparent compelling reasons to do so, besides the fact that life imprisonment proved to be non-deterrent against criminality.

Republic Act 7659 or the Death Penalty Law was abolished by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in June 2006.

Aquino said that people can be wrongly accused and convicted especially if they do not have the means or ability to hire competent counsels, which the President said is a sad reality in Philippine legal system.

The President also vouched for the integrity of the Philippine National Police amid criticisms brought by the recent heinous crimes.

"In my administration, we focus on correct data. We do not hide the facts from the people in order to know what the real sickness is. In the past, statistics do not reflect reality. How can we cure the sickness with the wrong data?" Aquino said when asked to explain about the rising criminality in the country, particularly in Metro Manila.

The President expressed optimism that the PNP leadership will do its homework in solving criminal cases in various parts of the country.

"Our police authorities are doing their job. My priority right now is to give them the right benefits and privileges that they deserve," he said.

The Death Penalty Law allows the use of lethal injection for judicial executions of those who committed heinous crimes.

In an interview, Sotto said the latest spate of rape incidents and drug-related crimes has prompted him to revive the issue of death penalty, adding that the influx of heinous crimes poses an alarming situation.

"The indiscriminate and horrendous brutality happening everywhere, rightfully and justifiably compels the government to resort to the ultimate criminal penalty provided for by no less than our Constitution, the death penalty," the senator said in filing Senate Bill 2080.

Sotto said his proposition is consistent with the rationale of the Death Penalty Law, which provides that death penalty is appropriately necessary "due to the alarming upsurge of such crimes which has resulted not only in the loss of human lives and wanton destruction of property but also affected the nation's efforts towards sustainable economic development and prosperity while at the same time has undermined the people's faith in the government and the latter's ability to maintain peace and order in the country."

In the House of Representatives, members of the minority bloc sided with Aquino on the issue of the reestablishment of death penalty.

House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said that the minority have agreed to block any attempt in the chamber to resurrect the capital punishment.

"All of us agreed in the minority that we are against the proposed revival death penalty," Zamora said.

The San Juan lawmaker was Executive Secretary of then President Joseph Estrada when five convicted rapists were sentenced to death via lethal injection. One of them was convicted child rapist Leo Echegaray, the only Filipino to be executed using the lethal injection in 1999.

1-BAP Party-list Representative Sylvestre Bello III said the death penalty did not totally reduce the crime rate in the country when it was implemented before 1987 and during its revival by President Fidel Ramos.

"We have already seen and proven in the past that the death penalty is not effective on resolving or minimizing the crime rates. We should instead strengthen the justice system. Pabilisin ang mga paghahatol at papanagutin agad ang mga may sala. Sa death penalty talo ang mahihirap," said Bello, a former Justice Secretary in the Ramos administration. (Jun M. Sarmiento/John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)

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