FULL TEXT: Death penalty is ‘not anti-God’ – Veloso

Rappler.com
FULL TEXT: Death penalty is ‘not anti-God’ – Veloso
Leyte 2nd District Representative Vicente Veloso says it is beyond the powers of the Church to tell Congress how to penalize perpetrators of heinous crimes

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.

House justice committee chairperson Reynaldo Umali sponsored the bill for 2nd reading on Tuesday, February 7. But Leyte 2nd District Representative Vicente Veloso, the panel’s vice chairperson, delivered a 35-minute speech ahead of Umali. Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro also spoke in favor of the capital punishment on February 1.

Here is the full text of Veloso’s speech as provided by his office.

***

Madam Speaker, distinguished colleagues, it is my pleasure to present before this august chamber Committee Report Number 47 of the Committee on Justice. Attached thereto is House Bill Number 4727 which serves as substitute bill to House Bills Numbered 1, 16, 513, 3239, 3237, 3240, 3418 restoring the death penalty for certain heinous crimes. 

Procedural matters

Madam Speaker, records of the House will show that the said House Bills were referred to the Committee on Justice on the following dates:

  • House Bill Nos. 1 and 16 on July 26, 2016;
  • House Bill No. 513 on July 27, 2016;
  • House Bill Nos. 3237, 3239 and 3240 on August 30, 2016; and,
  • House Bill No. 3418 on September 6, 2016.  

On September 20, 2016, during the regular meeting of the mother Committee, the Committee on Justice referred House Bills 1, 16, 513, 3237, 3239 and 3240 to its Subcommittee on Judicial Reforms, chaired by this representation. During its initial meeting of November 9, 2016, the Subcommittee likewise acquired jurisdiction over House Bill No. 3418, as it had the same subject matter as the rest of the bills on the restoration of the death penalty.

On November 9, 2016, the Subcommittee on Judicial Reforms conducted its first meeting. Included in its agenda were the bills restoring the death penalty. For the initial meeting, the Subcommittee invited representatives from government agencies such as the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) of the Supreme Court (SC), and the Philippine National Police (PNP). Representatives from the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) were also invited.

During that initial meeting, this representation informed the body that requests for position papers were already sent to all government agencies, non-government organizations, civil society organizations and other stakeholders who wished to submit their position papers to the subcommittee. In turn, Representatives Edcel Lagman and Kaka Bag-ao submitted lists of resource persons whom they wished to be invited by the subcommittee. These resource persons were accordingly given notices of meetings and requests for position papers.

The DOJ, PAO, PNP and VACC all gave their support on the bills restoring the death penalty. The PAO and VACC submitted their position papers on November 9, while the DOJ and PNP submitted their position papers on November 15, 2016. The CHR, on the other hand, stated its position against the death penalty, and agreed to submit an official position paper to the subcommittee, which they did on November 10. Additionally, the VACC agreed to submit a list of other organizations who were willing to submit position papers in favor of the death penalty.

The Subcommittee on Judicial Reforms continued its deliberations on November 15, 2016. Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II of the DOJ presented the official position paper of the DOJ supporting the restoration of the death penalty. The PNP likewise submitted its position paper, and presented statistics on crime and crime rate. It was during this meeting that I raised the possibility of limiting the imposition of death penalty to drug-related crimes.

The Subcommittee then conducted another meeting on November 22, 2016. During this meeting, resource persons who were against the death penalty were heard. Various groups and organizations likewise submitted position papers, including the CHR, theFree Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), Amnesty International – Philippines (AI), Coalition Against the Death Penalty (CADP), iDefend, PhilRights, Philippine Jesuit Prison Service (PJPS), International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Other groups that support the restoration of the death penalty also submitted position papers, such as Bishop Butch Belgica of the Christian Bishops and Ministers Association of the Philippines (CBMAP), Citizens Crime Watch (CCW), Liga ng Eksplosibong Pagbabago (LEP), Anti-Trapo Movement (ATM) and the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM).

After receiving position papers from government agencies, non-government organizations, civil society groups and other stakeholders, the Subcommittee resolved in its November 29, 2016 meeting to deliberate on: (1) whether or not to impose the death penalty on drug-related crimes only, or (2) to adopt a more comprehensive death penalty bill. During the said meeting, the subcommittee presented two (2) substitute measures embodying the said proposal. Six (6) members voted for the more comprehensive death penalty bill, while five (5) subcommittee members voted to adopt the substitute bill imposing the death penalty only on drug-related crimes. But two (2) members voted against both measures. Hence, the more comprehensive measure was approved, using House Bill No. 1 as the working draft, which included two (2) amendments to House Bill No. 1, specifically on:

  1. Section 8 of the bill, by limiting the imposition of the death penalty for murder to paragraphs  2 (in consideration of a price, reward or promise), 4 (on occasion of any of the calamities enumerated in the preceding paragraph, or of an earthquake, eruption of a volcano, destructive cyclone, epidemic or other public calamity), and 6 (with cruelty, by deliberately and inhumanly augmenting the suffering of the victim, or outraging or scoffing at his person or corpse) of Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code only; and
  2. Section 17, by lowering the threshold of possession of shabu punishable by death from 50 grams to 10 grams.

Having voted 6-5-2 to approve the substitute bill restoring the death penalty for heinous crimes, the Subcommittee on Judicial Reforms prepared its Subcommittee Report for approval by the mother Committee.

On December 7, 2016, the Committee on Justice calendared Subcommittee Report No. 2 for consideration and approval. Members of the Committee, as well as other members of the House of Representatives who were not members of the Committee, presented their final thoughts on the measure. After due deliberations, it was argued that further discussions and debate on the restoration of the death penalty is better conducted in the plenary, where all Representatives may interpellate the sponsors and thresh out the issues relative to the death penalty. Accordingly, Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia moved for the approval of Subcommittee Report No. 2 and the matter was put to a vote. With twelve (12) votes in favor and five (5) against, the motion was carried and Subcommittee Report No. 2 was approved. 

Thereafter, Deputy Speaker Garcia moved for the approval of the Committee Report on the bills restoring the death penalty. The motion was put to a vote, and with twelve (12) votes in favor, six (6) against, and one (1) abstention, the motion was carried. Thus, Committee Report No. 47 on the bills restoring the death penalty was approved.

On January 11, 2017, Committee Report No. 47 on House Bill No. 4727 was filed with the House Bills and Index Division, and on January 16, 2017, the Committee Report was included in the Order of Business in the Committee on Rules.

Substantive matters 

  1. At the core of HB 4727’s restoration of death penalty is Art. III, Sec. 19 (1) of the Constitution which provides: 

Section 19. (1) Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it. Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua.” (emphasis supplied)

HB 4727 does not present a new question, particularly on the question of whether or not an accused “deserves to forfeit his place in human society for the infliction of the primitives and bestial acts of incestuous lust on his own blood”, the Supreme Court, in the case of People vs. Leo Echagaray (G.R. No. 117472, February 7, 1997) held: 

“One of the indispensable powers of the state is the power to secure society against threatened and actual evil. Pursuant to this, the legislative arm of the government enacts criminal laws that define and punish illegal acts that may be committed by its own subjects, the executive agencies enforce these laws, and the judiciary tries and sentences the criminals in accordance with these laws.

xxx 

“The opposition to the death penalty uniformly took the form of a constitutional question of whether or not the death penalty is a cruel, unjust, excessive or unusual punishment in violation of the constitutional proscription against cruel and unusual punishments. We unchangingly answered this question in the negative in the cases of Harden v. Director of Prison, People v. Limaco, People v. Camano, People v. Puda, and People v. Marcos,  In Harden, we ruled:  

‘The penalty complained of is neither cruel, unjust nor excessive. In Ex-parte Kemmler, 136 U.S., 436, the United States Supreme Court said that ‘punishments are cruel when they involve torture or a lingering death, but the punishment of death is not cruel, within the meaning of that word as used in the constitution. It implies there something inhuman and barbarous, something more than the mere extinguishment of life.’

Consequently, we have time and again emphasized that our courts are not the fora for a protracted debate on the morality or propriety of the death sentence where the law itself provides therefor in specific and well-defined criminal acts. Thus we had ruled in the 1951 case of Limaco that:

‘x x x there are quite a number of people who honestly believe that the supreme penalty is either morally wrong or unwise or ineffective.However, as long as that penalty remains in the statute books, and as long as our criminal law provides for its imposition in certain cases, it is the duty of judicial officers to respect and apply the law regardless of their private opinions,’

and this we have reiterated in the 1995 case of People v. Veneracion” (emphasis supplied)

On Echagaray’s motion for reconsideration, the Supreme Court, En Banc in Echagaray (People vs. Leo Echagaray, G.R. No. 117472, February 7, 1997), explained that Sec. 19(1), Art. III of the 1987 Constitution is a product of a heated and extensive debate among members of the 1987 Constitutional Commission. From an originally worded “excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhumane punishment, on the death penalty be inflicted. Death penalty already imposed shall be commuted to reclusion perpetua”, as proposed by Father Bernas, Commissioner Napoleon G. Rama proposed an amendment reasoning out that “never in our history has there been a higher incidence of crime” and that “criminality was at its zenith during the last decade”. (People vs. Echagaray, G.R. No. 117472, February 7, 1997). HB 4727 is therefore constitutional.

Besides, the provision allowing the imposition of death penalty supports the mandate in Art. II, Sec. 4 of the Constitution that “The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people.” 

This “prime duty of the Government to xxx protect the people” rests in “Congress”, not with any branch of government. On this premise alone, I find it difficult to agree with Senator Hontiveros when she opined that “no case, even this ‘tokhang for ransom’ (of Korean Jee Ick Joo) would be reason enough to reimpose death penalty” (Inquirer, January 28, 2017, p. 3).

But still the debate went on. Eventually, “the phrase unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress shall thereafter provide for it” it was introduced as an amendment by then Commissioner Christian Monsod”. (People vs. Echagaray, G.R. No. 117472, February 7, 1997)

 2. Section 3 of HB 4727 provides:

“SEC. 3. Imposition of Death Penalty; Heinous Crimes Defined. – The death penalty is hereby imposed on crimes under this Act as heinous for being grievous, odious and hateful offenses, which by reason of their inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and perversity are repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society.” 

Accordingly, Act No. 3815, as amended, otherwise known as the ‘Revised Penal Code’, and other special penal laws, are hereby amended for the purpose of imposing the death penalty on heinous crimes enumerated under this Act.”

Generally, the bill proposes to merely give courts the option of penalizing “heinous crimes” with Reclusion Perpetua to Death on all of the 21 crimes enumerated from Section 4 to Section 22 thereof.

Penalized by death alone are:

  1. Qualified Bribery under Art. 211 of the Revised Penal Code if the public officer demands gift or present (Sec. 6, HB 4727)
  2. Rape with Homicide
  3. Rape, attended by any of the 10 aggravating/qualifying circumstances enumerated in Art. 266-B (Sec. 10, HB 4727)
  4. Destructive Arson under Art. 320, RPC if Arson results in death (Sec. 13, HB 4727)
  5. The organizer, manager, financier in the Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution, Importation of Drugs, etc that is violative of Sec. 5, RA 9165 (Sec. 15, HB 4727)
  6. The organizer, manager, financier, manufacturer, etc,  in the maintenance of den, dive or Resort of dangerous drugs, that is violative of Sec. 8, RA 9165 (Sec. 15, HB 4727)
  7. The organizer, manager, financier, manufacturer, etc,  in the manufacture of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors that is violative of Sec. 8, RA 9165 (Sec. 16, HB 4727)
  8. The organizer, manager, financier  in the cultivation or culture of plants classified as Dangerous Drugs or are sources thereof that is violative of Sec. 16, RA 9165 (Sec. 18, HB 4727)
  9. Any “person” who is guilty of “planting” in evidence any “dangerous drug and/or precursor and essential chemical, regardless of quantity and purity”’ which is violative of Sec. 28 of RA 9165 (Sec. 21, HB 4727)

Again, heinous crimes are compelling reasons to restore death penalty. Such is what Sec. 19 (1), Art. III of the Constitution provides:

Section 19. (1) Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it. Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua.”

The crimes enumerated in Sec. 4 to 22 of HB 4727 are “grievous, odious and hateful offenses”. They are inherently and manifestly wicked, vicious, atrocious, perverse to the point that they are “repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society”. (Sec. 3, HB 4727; People vs. Leo Echagaray, G.R. No. 117472, February 7, 1997).

Being a revival of RA 7659, this body is not supposed to hear further opposition to HB 4727 especially if such are plain reiteration of what the oppositors to Sec. 19(1) agreed during the 1987 Constitution deliberations. Anyway, in answer to what the oppositors argue, let me point out that:

  1. Legislation on death penalty is the sole concern of Congress.

Art.II, Sec. 4 of the 1987 Constitution mandate that “ The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people”. It is for said reason that Art. III, Sec.19(1) provides that “ for compelling reasons involving the heinous crimes, the Congress” shall enact a death penalty law.” 

2. The Philippines is not bound by the “State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Second Optional Protocol on the ICCPR” because such is not generally accepted principle of international law. In ASEAN, only the Philippines, as of now, does not have the death penalty law.

Japan, Singapore, the United states, and almost all of Asia, still have the death penalty law. Such agreements do not constitute an amendment to Sec. 2, Art. II of the 1987 constitution which mandates that the “Philippine xxx adopts generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land.” 

 3. HB 4727 is not Anti-God.

I must preliminarily emphasize in this regard, that Sec. 6, Art. II of the Constitution mandates that “the separation of church and state shall be inviolable.” A death penalty is, therefore, the exclusive domain of Congress. Such is what Sec. 19 (1) of Art. III provides. Just as Congress cannot dictate how the Church should penalize its priests and religious, it is beyond the powers of the Church to tell how Congress should penalize criminals in heinous crimes

For example, this morning (7:20AM) it appeared in CNN it was reported that an Australian Commission found that 4,444 children were abused by priests and religious in Australia for the past five years. Sounding familiar, it is not Congress’ concern to craft laws on how the Catholic Church should address the same problem here.

4. One last point, HB 4727 only intends to give back our courts that option to penalize an offender with death penalty. Such is important. In my experience – 

  • 2004 – Father raped his child. Yet I imposed only life imprisonment on the offender
  • 2008 or thereabouts, a father raped his 3 children – from the eldest to the youngest. I could no longer impose death penalty as RA 7659 was already repealed.

5. We swore, last July 25, 2016, that we will uphold the Constitution, I asked myself… 

According to Justice Rory Carandang – you should have read the cases on heinous crimes that came their way. 

  1. On rape alone, CA Justice Sesinando Villon narrated that he tried a case when he was still an RTC Judge. It involved a teenager studying at Centro Escolar University who need – to be fetched by her father in going to and from school. One afternoon, she went home without waiting for her father because their class was dismissed early. When she was near their house, she passed by a group of male addicts in a “shabu” session. They raped her and when they found it difficult to penetrate her organ, they got a piece of wood and inserted it to the victim’s organ. The teenager screamed a lot in pain and eventually died.
  2. In a video entitled “Daisy’s Destruction” it appears that on February 20, 2015, the PNP arrested “Peter Gerard Scully” who with “Liezyl Margallo” kidnapped, sexually abused, and murdered “eleven children”. Scully was part of an organization called the “NLF” (“No Limits Fun”). One of the victims is  five-year-old Barbie. Her aunt, Eva Ubod, entrusted Barbie to Margallo and Scully on their assurance that they would take care and send Barbie to school. The video taken by the couple shows “a man, who rapes the girl, first vaginally and then anally. The crying of the child by then thus heartbreaking xxx. With a knife, he cuts off some of her fingers and makes different wounds on her body. The torturer uses a lighter to burn it in several parts, including her clitoris. Then he ties it to a log, sprays it with a liquid and sets it on fire. The screams are heartbreaking. After a while, they turn it off. In the end, the woman shoots him. The floor is full of blood and the girl is dying without making sounds, only shaking her head from time to time, until she finally dies. Barbie was buried in the kitchen of a house in Surigao.” According to the NBI, “severally performed sexual acts in accordance with the instructions and fantasies of its customers” who “paid between $100 and $10,000 for the videos, some of which were described as ‘the most shocking’ seen by the police officers in the Philippines. One of them shows torture and sexual abuse to a one-year-old baby, who is raped annually and then beaten to death,”

I cannot understand why:

  1. Akyat bahay who killed mother of Ms. Picache would still kill after robbing the old lady
  2. Vizconde massacre – unimaginable
  3. Canapper who killed and burned the body of Venson Evangelista
  4. Margallo and Australian who killed one-year-old in Cebu (Daisy) – rich
  5. Korean businessman – Jee Ick Joo – Police officers were not poor; poverty was not reason 

Again, what we have is a legal question, not a religious issue. But even if we have to measure the validity of HB 4727 by what Vatican says:

“The Cathechism of Council of Trent” that was “Published By Command of Pope Pius the Fifth”, as translated into English By The Rev. J. Donovan” 

it would be evident that HB4727 is valid. 

In the book, at pp. 280-281 – the Vatican explained that “the Fifth Commandment – Thou shall not kill” excludes:

  1. The killing of an animal;
  2. The killing by a Soldier of an “enemy in a just war”;
  3. A death “caused by accident, not by intent or design” (is not murder);
  4. The killing of “another in self-defense”; and
  5. Death as ordered by a civil magistrate, viz: 

“Again, this prohibition does not apply to the civil magistrate, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which he punishes the guilty and protects the innocent. The use of the civil sword, when wielded by the hand of justice, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the commandment is the preservation and security of human life, and to the attainment of this end the punishments inflicted by the civil magistrate, who is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend, giving security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: ‘In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land; that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord.’”  

Hindi po totoo na ipinagbabawal ng Diyos ang pagpatay as long as they are covered by the 5 exceptions, kasama na rito the 4th on sentencing a criminal by death. 

Madam Speaker, at the end of the day, katulad ninyong mga kasamahan dito, iisa lang ang tanong natin sa sarili natin: Kailangan bang patayin ‘yung mga kriminal on heinous crimes? There is an argument: Ikulong mo na lang, imprison. Ikulong na lang tulad ni Jaybee Sebastian. Ilalagay sa maximum security kasi ‘yun ang buhay impiyerno, only to find out labas-pasok sila sa kulungan. At ang kulungan na parang impiyerno ay ginagawang kulungan na parang 5-star hotel.

Hindi po, Madam Speaker, hindi po kailangan ilagay sila sa maximum security. Bakit po? Natatakot ako. Exposed fact to law ang pag-uusapan natin. Itong mga pinag-uusapan nating crimes, heinous crimes, wala na po tayong magagawa diyan. Whatever law we pass, ‘di na sila sakop noon. Ang kinatatakot ko, one of these days, malalaman na lang natin, isa sa kasamahan natin, kamag-anak, ginahasa. O sila mismo, naakyat-bahay. O sila mismo, na-kidnap-for-ransom. Isipin mo lahat ng heinous crimes na nangyayari sa kapatiran natin. Iisa lang po ang sagot: Sana, sana po, ‘wag na nating hayaan ang heinous crime criminal na mamuhay pa muli because at the end of the day, kung sino man sa mga kamag-anak natin ang mabibiktima nila, kasalanan po natin ‘yan. Ang dugo nila ay magiging dugo sa ating kamay dahil ‘di natin ipinasa ang 4727 that will penalize with death heinous crimes.

Salamat po. – Rappler.com

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