Fariñas: No executions under Duterte 'possible'
MANILA, Philippines – House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said the public should not expect any executions to happen in the next 4 or 5 years should the 17th Congress pass the controversial death penalty bill into law.
"You have to consider that even with the reimposition of the death penalty, you do not expect an execution in the next 4 or 5 years dahil sa hearing na lang (because of the time it takes just for the hearing only)," said Fariñas in a chance interview with reporters on Wednesday, February 22.
"Because kapag napasa po ito, halimbawa naipasa ito kalagitnaan ng taon, 'yan ay magte-take effect lang doon sa mangyayaring offenses upon the passage of the law. 'Di naman po puwedeng mag-take effect sa mga kasong nangyari na."
(Because when the bill is passed, for example in the middle of the year, it will only take effect on offenses that will happen upon the passage of the law. It won't take effect on past cases.)
He explained that the process – from the filing of the case before the prosecutor's office, to the trial at the Regional Trial Court, up to the appeal before the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court – "takes about 5 years."
Asked if it is possible that no executions will happen under the term of death penalty advocate and President Rodrigo Duterte, Fariñas said it is "possible."
"Possible because the President has 5 years and 4 months left, 'di ba (right)? Isipin mo kung gaano katagal din ang gestation period of conviction of death penalty. Matagal 'yan (Think about how long the gestation period for a conviction of death penalty is. It's a long time)," said the Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative.
According to Fariñas, this is the reason why people should not be immediately concerned with the provision under House Bill (HB) Number 4727 allowing 3 modes of execution – by lethal injection, hanging, or firing squad.
He said congressmen will not be choosing which mode to revive and which to leave to the discretion of the judge.
"'Di na [kami pipili kasi] mas mahirap 'yun eh. Para nando'n na 'yung sa judge then the judge can call for executive and find out ano ba mas effective diyan and everything. Kasi mag-e-evolve pa naman 'yan eh," said Fariñas.
(We will not choose anymore because that's difficult. The judge can call for the executive and find out which is more effective. The bill will also evolve.)
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a principal co-author of the bill, previously said it is up to the executive to decide which mode of execution to use. (READ: Death penalty mode? 'Whatever is cheaper' – Alvarez)
HB 4727 is currently up for debate at the plenary floor.
The bill's proponents, including Alvarez, have argued that the return of the death penalty will fix the country's flawed justice system. Anti-death penalty lawmakers, however, have countered it is not a true deterrent to crime and also violates the Philippines' obligations to several international agreements.
Fariñas said the majority bloc had already agreed to vote on HB 4727 on 2nd reading by February 28. He added the period of amendments of the bill may already happen during the session on Wednesday afternoon.
The opposition bloc has repeatedly accused the House leadership of railroading the passage of HB 4727, a priority measure of the President.
Safeguard measures for the accused
On Wednesday, Fariñas revealed other possible amendments to HB 4727, which includes safeguard measures to ensure the proper administration of justice to those accused of committing heinous crimes.
"Some safeguards like requiring the Public Attorney's Office and the OSG to assign senior lawyers to handle the automatic review or appeal of cases of death penalty. So hindi puwede 'yung mga junior lawyers nila. Mag-assign sila ng mga senior lawyers (So their junior lawyers will not be allowed. They should assign senior lawyers)," said Fariñas.
He also said congressmen will introduce an amendment requiring the fiscal to provide copies of information to the Commission on Human Rights, religious and civic organizations, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Free Legal Assistance Group so they can monitor the case of the accused and help him or her.
"Kasi naman po, ito ay community effort naman ito (This is a community effort). If we feel we have an imperfect judicial system, let's do our share by monitoring the judicial system," said Fariñas. – Rappler.com