Aquino hesitant to bring back death penalty

Sen Tito Sotto, in contrast, wants to revive the Death Penalty Law to prevent drug traffickers from making the country their playground

HESITANT. President Benigno Aquino III says he does not think the death penalty is the only way to deter criminals. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – Death penalty in the Philippines?

President Benigno Aquino III isn’t convinced.

When asked about his take on bringing back the death penalty as talks about reviving the bill on capital punishment resurfaced, Aquino on Wednesday, January 29, said the proposal will need to be thoroughly studied.

He said he doesn’t believe the death penalty is a successful deterrent for criminals.

Siguro at the most, at this point in time, pag may death sentence iyong na-convict at tunay na kriminal, iyon lang ang natanggal natin sa pagkakataon na magkaroon o gumawa ng krimen. Pero iyong deterrence palagay ko hindi yon ang kaisa-isang solusyon para sa deterrence. Mas deterrence siguro iyong katiyakan na makukulong ka o mahuhuli ka pag may ginawa kang krimen at iyon ang puspusan nating ginagawa,” he said.

(Maybe at most, at this point in time, if there’s a death sentence only the one convicted, the true criminal will be deprived of the opportunity to commit a crime. As for deterrence, I don’t think that’s the only solution for deterrence. I think the certainty of imprisonment or arrest if you commit a crime is a better deterrent, and that’s what we are working on.)

He also said the justice system still needs some reforms, which Aquino said he’d rather focus on for now.

So ang tanong, nabigyan ba lahat ng kanyang karapatan na mapagtanggol ang sarili sa korte? Iyon bang talagang nakakasigurado ba tayo na iyong inosente ay hindi mako-convict? At sad to say, ano, iyan ay work in progress pa rin, ano, hanggang hindi tayo nakakatiyak na talagang nabigyan lahat ng kanyang hustong karapatan para ipagtanggol ang kanyang sarili. Iyong pag tayo’y may sinintensiyahan ng kamatayan na, wala nang bawian iyon,” he said.

(So the question is, was everyone given the right to defend themselves in court? Are we absolutely sure that the innocent won’t be convicted? Sad to say, the justice system is still work in progress until we are sure that everyone is given the right to defend themselves. Once we give someone the death penalty, there is no taking it back.)

Mixed views

The death penalty was in place until it was abolished in 1986 when the President’s mother Corazon Aquino took over the reins of power from Ferdinand Marcos. It was reintroduced by President Fidel V. Ramos in 1993, then suspended again in 2006.

While the President is hesitant to bring back the death penalty, some quarters are adamant about its return.

Sen Vicente “Tito” Sotto is seeking the revival of Republic Act 7659 or the Death Penalty Law, citing recent serious crimes, saying the government cannot even give an example of how life imprisonment has deterred criminals.

He quoted the International Narcotic Enforcement Group as saying the Philippines will be comparable to Mexico in terms of drug trafficking in the next 5 years if nothing changes.

“I’m pushing for the death penalty for high-scale drug trafficking so that we’re not treated like a playground. We’re called a playground of drug traffickers. They can’t do it in Singapore or Malaysia or China because they’ll get killed. In the Philippines, they will be jailed in Bilibid with no air-conditioner but there’s a refrigerator, a television and other things,” he said.

Sotto agreed there is a need to improve the justice system and said it can be pushed alongside the death penalty, especially for those “who kill children” and “for high-scale drug trafficking, rape with murder, or rape with aggravating circumstances.”

Earlier this month, anticrime watchdog Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) also voiced support for the death penalty, citing heinous crimes. –

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