MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives started debates on House Bill Number 4727, the measure seeking to reimpose the death penalty for 21 heinous crimes in the country.
As House justice committee chairperson, Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali sponsored the bill for 2nd reading on Tuesday, February 7. The panel’s vice chairperson, Leyte 2nd District Representative Vicente Veloso, as well as Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro also delivered speeches in favor of the capital punishment.
Here is the full text of Umali’s 45-minute speech as provided by his office.
My colleagues, Deputy Speaker Fred Castro and Congressman Ching Veloso have already discussed most of the issues that had been raised during the Subcommittee deliberations on the death penalty bills. We already heard the reasons why the bills were filed, and why the bills passed the Justice Subcommittee and Mother Committee. Allow me now, Mr. Speaker, to explain why House Bill No. 4727 needs to be passed by the House of the People. And I offer 4 compelling reasons, therefore as follows:
- Death penalty is a fitting response to increasing criminality and killings in the country
- Death penalty is a measure to restore respect for the laws of the land
- Death penalty is a path to achieving justice
- Reimposition of death penalty is geared towards a genuine reform in the Philippine criminal justice system
First proposition: Death penalty as a fitting response to increasing criminality and killings in the country
Mr Speaker, dear colleagues, I stand before this August Chamber to articulate the present outcry of the citizens of our Republic, a bane that threatens the very existence of order in our society. As we sit on these high chairs carrying the mandate of our citizens, the ordinary people fear for their lives and limbs as they walk in our streets, families second-guess the safety of their homes, victims of criminalities wait in vain for the arrest and/or verdict of their cases, as their thirst for justice fades away; in constant doubt on how our law enforcers and/or investigators can amply secure or protect them, and in some cases even fearful that such men in uniform are protectors of these criminals, if not perpetrators of the crimes. Ngayon, di na tayo makasiguro kung sino ang pagkakatiwalaan ng taong bayan.
My esteemed colleagues, we, as representatives of the people are called upon to stand against the grave, apparent and imminent danger that we seemingly refuse to see and face – That despite our earnest efforts in the previous Congresses to pursue reforms in the criminal justice system, we had failed to preserve its reign and integrity; that our existing criminal justice has failed the millions of lives due to wanton disregard of our laws and authorities. Huwag na po tayong magbulagbulagan sa mga karumaldumal na kaganapan sa ating bayan. According to a study conducted by the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Crime Research Analysis Center, although there is a swift decline in the rate of crimes against property and persons, incidents of murders are recorded on a dramatic increase. Reportedly, from 81,064 incidents in the months of July to November in 2015, the index crime volume dropped by 31 percent for the same period in 2016. However, a surge of 51 % increase in murders is also recorded during the said period. Imulat natin ang ating mga mata, buksan ang ating mga tenga sa kriminalidad na nararanasan ng ating mga kababayan.
Yes, we are all witnesses on how these killings filled the banner stories of our daily news since then. In fact, killings and crimes have become staples in our consciousness – etched even among our children who either witness these crimes in person or are exposed in various forms of media which are relentless in showcasing crimes perpetrated almost daily.
Let me categorize these killlings into three kinds: First is the kind that is brought about by the commission of a crime. These are murder incidents committed against innocent civilians during robberies, thieveries and carnappings. Some committed to conceal the body of another crime such as rape and more recently, kidnap for ransom like the case of the Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo allegedly perpetrated by men in uniform. To many, this case is more than enough reason to re-impose the death penalty.
The second kind of killing is the one brought about by the recent war on drugs, which can be classified into two types; the legal and the extra judicial. Under our Revised Penal Code, a killing shall be justified if the same is done in the performance of a lawful duty or in defense of oneself, otherwise it is considered a crime. Thus, killings done by the police in pursuance of their duty during an encounter of armed resistance are considered legal.
According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer article “The Kill List,” the Philippine National Police reported that, from June 30 2016 to January 30, 2017, there are 2,083 drug-related killings committed, 1,101 of which are killed allegedly during legitimate police operations. These are the incidents wherein armed resistance was allegedly perpetrated by the suspects.
Meanwhile, the PNP also reports that there are 982 incidents of murders committed outside police operations. These incidents are unexplained killings, committed by unknown assailants, for motives which may be related to the campaign against illegal drugs. These are the killings which are considered as criminal acts… killings that are motivated by either silencing a possible state witness, or by vigilante justice. Up to now a large portion of these incidents are still undergoing police investigations.
And the last category of killings prevalent in our street nowadays are those done by gun-for-hires who perpetuate the death trade through employment of motorcycles, otherwise popularly known in our streets as the “Riding in tandems”. These are assassins hired to commit murder against civilians for a fee. Such heinous crime is resorted to by individuals due to different motives, such as eliminating business rivals, revenge, at times even ending failed marriages as it was seen as easier mode than going to courts for annulment such as in the murder case of Tania Camille Dee of Angeles City who was allegedly murdered by her husband, Fidel Sheldon Arcenas in conspiracy with his girlfriend Angela Dychioco. Nito lamang nakaraang linggo, nasa balita ang pagpatay ng isang lalaki, si Jayson del Valle ng Caloocan, sa asawa ng kaniya mismong kaibigan. Dinamay pa niya ang anak nito na ngayon ay naghihingalo sa ospital. Politically motivated killings, as well as media killings belong to this specie of murder.
Undeniably, the common denominator in these killings is exacting justice in a person’s own hands.
These 3 kinds of killings, Mr Speaker, are clear manifestations of the FAILURE of our criminal justice system… A failed system that, if not corrected, will continue to be used and abused by criminals and even by misguided law enforcers. It is a failed system because the people would rather serve justice with their own hands than trust the government to deliver it. It is very frustrating that instead of making international headlines because of our economic achievements, it was the increased number of killings that made the news. This kind of media attention gives the appearance that ours is a country where criminals and vigilantes usurp the government of its duty to deliver justice. These kinds of killings make it appear that our state is governed, not by rule of law, but by the rule of man.
Thus, your Honors, with the dysfunctional criminal justice system, it is 5 imperative that we resort to measures to ensure that interest of the greater good, those who are crying for justice, clamoring for peace, and pining for reason, is served. I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT THE REIMPOSITION OF DEATH PENALTY IS A NEEDED LEGISLATIVE MEASURE AS WE TRANSITION TO A REENGINEERED CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.
No less than the Supreme Court, in the case of People vs. Echegaray, quoted Donald Atwell Zoll, (quote) “If we are to preserve the humane society we will have to retain sufficient strength of character and will to do the unpleasant in order that tranquility and civility may rule comprehensively. It seems very likely that capital punishment is a xxx necessary, if limited, factor in that maintenance of social tranquility and ought to be retained on this ground. To do otherwise is to indulge in the luxury of permitting a sense of false delicacy to reign over the necessity of social survival.” (end of quote) Mr. Speaker, I believe it has become imperative that we instill in our people including the men in uniform, the gravity of punishment for committing a crime. People nowadays are not scared of committing a crime anymore because they believe they can get away with it or they can buy their way to freedom or they can even buy justice. Innocent people are not safe in the streets anymore because criminals believe they can escape punishment no matter how heinous the crimes they commit. Imposing death penalty is a means of bringing back fear to these criminals to prevent them from injecting more poison into our society. This is to make them fear to do wrong, or commit a crime. Make them see that committing crimes do not have a place in our society, just like in other countries, where Filipinos are observed to be disciplined and able to exhibit their best characters, as responsible citizens, migrants or even Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). I can only wonder how and why we can be a disciplined people elsewhere, but not in our home country?
Eleven years ago, this August Chamber abolished death penalty so I ask, what had happened since? Are we any better in reforming our convicted criminals? Or have they gone from bad to worse? From the revelation made by Deputy Speaker Castro and Congressman Veloso, the answer is pretty obvious. So I ask again, if we do not do anything and just maintain the status quo, can we expect change? Sa ganang akin, wala tayong maasahang pagbabago kung mananatili tayong kontra sa parusang kamatayan.
I submit that the re-imposition of death penalty also signifies that we as a Republic do not tolerate and condone justice delivered through the hands of man, but only through the rule of law. Vigilante justice must end! For it to end we must send a clear message to our citizens that justice will be delivered, and if need be delivered totally. Dapat maramdaman ng sambayanan na ang batas ay nariyan upang mapangalagaan ang kaligtasan, kapakanan at dignidad ng bawat mamamayan lalo’t higit ang maliliit.
Death penalty as a measure to restore respect in the laws of the land
Not only is crime being committed in our streets and in our homes; crimes are being committed even inside our local jails and in our national prisons. Criminals continue to damage our society even inside our national prison. Instead of suffering the consequences of their wrongdoings, they even live a luxurious life inside our penitentiaries. On this score, there is a need to reform the punitive aspect of our penal system for how can we strike fear in the hearts of these criminals when they know that their prison sentence will even serve as their refuge to continue illegal activities? When they know that they could actually live a better life inside the prison? How can we say that justice has been achieved when instead of punishing these criminals, they are even allowed to perpetuate their illicit activities while serving their sentence, on account of the tara system imposed by unscrupulous prison officials.
In the past months that our Committee on Justice conducted hearings and legislative inquiries, it is with much remorse that we have been witnesses to the various spectacles that exposed how rotten our criminal justice system has become. Our citizens were appalled with the revelations that our legislative inquiries exposed. Testimonies from numerous witnesses led us to discover the rampant corruption inside our penitentiaries. The people observed in frustration and disgust as the very institution which should have penalized our convicts tolerated the commission of drug trade and other illegal activities inside the penitentiary. Instead of being punished for their criminal acts, the prisoners were allowed to live luxuriously inside, to the point of even ridiculing congressional offices compared to an inmate’s kubol. Crime syndicates in connivance with unscrupulous government officials took advantage of the flawed system to feed their selfish interests and perpetuate the impunity of crime.
Imagine the time, effort and resources spent by our government in investigating these criminals, capturing them through our law enforcement agencies, prosecuting them, presenting evidence against them, giving them a fair trial, and then finally convicting them for the crimes they have committed, only to find out that the punishment of imprisonment has little or no effect on their criminal activities. Imagine the taxes paid by the victims of heinous crimes that feed those who have wronged them.
Talking about restorative justice, I can only wonder how deserving these criminals deserve are, when they act with impunity inside our jails? How can these convicted felons be reformed after serving their sentence when they willingly commit crimes inside our jails and prisons, presumably, out of fear of reprisal from gang leaders lording over the underworld, with the tacit 8 approval and/or sanction of prison authorities; When the culture inside our jail system has evolved into one where you will either starve in prison, or where you can live a life of luxury and comfort if you stick to the right gang or syndicate?
Mr Speaker, what I have just described are not mere hypotheticals. THESE ARE FACTS. These were revelations during the hearings conducted by the Committee on Justice on the proliferation of drugs inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP). Mismong ang ating mga kababayan ang nakarinig sa mga rebelasyon ng mga bilanggo tungkol sa kalat at malawak na operasyon ng droga sa ating mga kulungan. Sa mismong maximum security prison kung saan dapat sana ay mas mahigpit ang seguridad, ang siyang naging sentro ng kalakalan ng ilegal na droga. Hindi lang basta maliliit na bentahan ng droga ang nangyayari sa loob ng ating mga kulungan. milyun-milyon ang kinikita ng mga bilanggo at mga koneksyon nila sa labas. Hindi ko po lubos maisip na ang drogang siyang naging dahilan kung bakit ang isang musmos na bata ay magahasa o ang isang inosenteng anak ay pinatay, ay nagmumula mismo sa kulungan na dapat maging daan upang mapagbago ang mga nakagawa ng krimen.
One particular aspect of that hearing struck me: When the convicted felons were asked the question: Ano ang mas kinakatakutan mo: kulungan o kamatayan?, all of them gave the same answer: DEATH (Kamatayan).
These convicts are not afraid of imprisonment. In fact, all of them were serving life sentences. What they only feared was death – the ultimate punishment for convicted criminals that would put an emphatic stop to their capacity to commit more crimes. Indeed, humans fear death more than anything else. Ordinary, law-abiding citizens fear imprisonment. Hardened criminals and those who are capable of committing heinous crimes fear nothing – except death.
Mr Speaker, before we conducted these hearings on the Bilibid drug trade, I was also against death penalty. Dati, hindi ako naniniwala na kinakailangan ng parusang kamatayan para panatilihin ang katahimikan sa ating mga kalsada at komunidad. After hearing all those testimonies, the corruption of our jail guards and other high-ranking officials in the government, the way these criminals conducted their illegal activities with impunity inside our jails, I HAD A CHANGE IN HEART. I have come to the conclusion that we need to strike fear in these criminals, and the only way to do that is to impose the punishment that they most fear – death. Layunin din ng ating isinusulong na Death Penalty Bill na ipaalala sa ating mga kababayan na ang mga batas ay hindi dapat balewalain kundi mga alintuntunin na dapat respetuhin at sundin, tulad ng pagrespeto at pagsunod ng Pilipino sa ibang bansa sa mga batas na umiiral sa kanilang kinaroroonan.
Death penalty: Our path to achieving justice
I admit, Mr Speaker, that these problems involving our prisons and our prison system are but symptoms of a greater problem of the CJS. The truth of the matter, my esteemed colleagues, is that we are merely scratching the surface of a deeply rooted menace which is the derogation of the entire criminal justice system. In fact, the killing of Mayor Espinosa in jail, showcases our dilemma. Imagine, a judge issuing a search warrant within the jail premises; a prisoner in posession of illegal firearms and drugs inside the prison cell; law enforcers effecting search in the wee hours of the morning, to the point of excluding jail authorities, then the resulting death of Mayor Espinosa.
Thereafter, we witnessed the Senate inquiry conducted thereon where we witnessed these involved policemen trying to cover each other’s back. Thus, I can only wonder how we can arrive at the truth and serve the ends of justice in the death of Mayor Espinosa.
Mind you, the systemic wide problem in the Criminal Justice System cannot be solved through piece meal legislative measures. There is a need to reengineer the system comprehensively and holistically. Muli ang mga solusyon at pagbabagong kinakailangan para baguhin ang isang bulok na sistema ay hindi magagawa sa isang upuan lang. Mahabang panahon ang kailangan upang makamtan ang pangkalahatang pagbabago.
In fact, the several hearings we conducted on the matter, have already resulted in pursuing policy initiatives to address reforms in the correctional system in a way that would prevent convicts from further committing crimes inside our prisons. But the more pressing question now is: What do we do in the meantime? How can we, as legislators, simply stand aside and wait with bated breath for these so-called “reforms” to take place – reforms that have been promised when the death penalty was abolished more than ten years ago?
It must be remembered that the cornerstone of our criminal justice system is the presumption of innocence. Proof beyond reasonable doubt is necessary in conviction. In this regard, our justice system is geared and skewed in favor of the accused. Laws and evidence are always interpreted to favor the accused such that an ounce of doubt would weaken a prosecution case against the accused. Therefore, all the accused are not automatically subject to conviction. Verily, it cannot be said that death penalty is anti-poor.
Let me address another important point, Mr. Speaker. There have been concerns raised that given our justice system, the restoration of the death penalty would eventually lead to the execution of an innocent person. I would like to emphasize that from the time a person has been arrested for a crime, that person will be subjected to due process. Even if an accused has been sentenced to death by the trial court, that person still has the remedy of appeal to the Court of Appeals. And even if the CA would sustain the RTC conviction, the Supreme Court would still conduct an automatic review, and would re-open the case and weigh all the evidence in order to determine whether the death penalty should be imposed, or the penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment would suffice. Lastly, the President may exercise his powers of clemency or pardon at any stage of the proceedings, even right before the execution. In short, Mr. Speaker, once the death penalty is restored, no person will be executed without having gone through this long and exhaustive process at determining whether or not the accused deserves the death penalty for the crime committed.
Against the foregoing long, tedious, and judicious process, otherwise known as due process, is Extra Judicial Killing (EJK), where any Tom, Dick and Harry, including men in uniform, can impose their death wish on anyone, guilty or not. To make matters worse, some of these men in uniform are taking advantage of the war on drugs in enforcing a scheme referred to as “Tokhang For Ransom”. Sa halip na bumaling ang ating mga kababayan sa kapulisan para sa kanilang proteksiyon at kaligtasan, sila pang mga nasa awtoridad mismo ang umaabuso sa kapangyarihan at gumagawa ng mga karumaldumal na krimen. Wala nang paggalang at takot na gumawa ng katiwalian ang ilang miyembro ng ating kapulisan dahil marahilang iniisip nila ay matatakasan naman nila ang batas. Now Mr. Speaker, are we still insisting that criminality has not reached such heights as to compel our government to impose the death penalty? Do we not see the reality that compels us to address this challenge ahead of us? So take your pick: Death without due process, or death after due process? Kaya nga po kailangan nating muling buhayin ang parusang kamatayan upang makamtan ang inaasam ng lahat na tunay na katarungan.
When we look at the re-imposition of death penalty, we must not only look at the life of the convicted. Also, we must also look at the innocent lives of the rest of the community and all other peace loving citizens who fear these criminals, to include men in uniform and other law enforcement agents, who use their police power to perpetuate crimes. We must look at the hapless faces of victims deprived of justice and speedy resolution – agonizing for years because criminals have found ways to skirt the law and hide from dysfunctional criminal justice system.
It is high time that we must look at the impact of death penalty to the entire community – the entire country. The police power of the state must reign, as capital punishment is not just about the life of the criminal sentenced to death but about the welfare of the entire community. As the Supreme Court aptly put it, “to ask what the rights are of the dying is to ask what the rights are of the living.” People vs. Echegaray G.R. No. 117472. February 7, 1997.
Reimposition of the death penalty: Towards a genuine reform in the Philippine criminal justice system
Many might fear the ire of religious groups and the loss of votes from their constituents who are so called “Pro-life” and against death penalty. But it is time to make a stand. It is our duty as statesmen, as representatives of our people to safeguard and protect them and the entire community. It is our duty to be fearless for them. Let us not be constrained by these concerns. Let us focus our attention on the challenge ahead of us… the challenge to reform and reengineer our criminal justice system. And so I encourage my esteemed colleagues to be fearless advocates of death penalty and genuine reform in the criminal justice system.
As a final point in the re-imposition of the capital punishment, let us be guided by the maxim, “salus populi est suprema lex” – the welfare of the people is the supreme law – the safety of the greater many, should be 13 above everything else. We must abide by the foundations of our legal system and that the law must govern utterly even if it is severe. Dura Lex Sed Lex, “The law may be harsh but it is the law. Let it reign supreme.”
Mr Speaker, gruesome and/or heinous crimes are wantonly committed against hapless victims as depicted by my colleagues who earlier spoke before this August halls. We have also witnessed how imprisonment does nothing to the state of mind of hardened criminals. Now, more than ever, is the time that we restore the death penalty to send a message to these criminals that our government is determined to put a stop to crime in order to protect the ordinary, law-abiding Filipino citizens. Please join us in the Committee on Justice to pursue other meaningful reforms in our criminal Justice system. The reimposition of death penalty for heinous crimes is just the start of such meaningful reforms. And the Committee on Justice would like to give the assurance that we will continue all our initiatives so that the reforms we need in the criminal justice system will be put in place by this 17th Congress. Maraming maraming salamat po. – Rappler.com