Death penalty for retribution? 'Not all victims want revenge' – CHR

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) opposed the proposal to revive the death penalty in the country, saying not all victims want to take revenge on the perpetrators of crimes committed against them.

"Not all victims want revenge. Not all are for the death penalty," said CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez Dumpit as she faced the members of the House committee on justice, which kicked off deliberations on the bills that would reimpose the capital punishment on Tuesday, September 24. 

Dumpit urged lawmakers to watch the ABS-CBN documentary "Radical Love," which narrates the journey to forgiveness of actress Cherry Pie Picache, whose mother Zenaida Sison was killed in September 2014. 

The CHR commissioner also quoted the opposition to the death penalty by Maria Clara Sarmenta, the mother of Eileen Sarmenta, who was raped and killed by then-Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez and his henchmen in 1993. 

Sarmenta said she initially wanted the death penalty to be revived following reports about Sanchez's possible early release due to the Good Conduct Time Allowance law mess. 

But the grieving mother later said, "Being a Christian, I would rather have the life sentence because in death penalty, it's only one injection, tapos na (then it's done)."

"In the life sentence, the prisoner would be given the chance to be reformed and also the mere fact that he suffers, he should be suffering for the crime he did," Sarmenta was quoted by an ABS-CBN report as saying. (READ: An eye for an eye: Can the death penalty bring justice to victims?)

A total of 12 bills seeking to reimpose the death penalty have been filed in the House of Representatives. Majority of these bills seek to impose the capital punishment for drug-related crimes, but other legislators also want to include kidnapping, rape, and even plunder.

In the previous 17th Congress, the House approved the bill that would revive the death penalty for certain drug crimes, but the measure did not fly in the Senate.

Now, legislators are once again tackling the death penalty bill after President Rodrigo Duterte called on the 18th Congress to revive the capital punishment for drug crimes and plunder during his 4th State of the Nation Address. 

Pro-death penalty bill legislators believe the return of the death penalty would not only be a way to exact payment from criminals, but also deter people from committing heinous crimes. 

But Dumpit argued that the death penalty is not the answer to curbing crime. 

"The Philippines, its legislators, and government agencies tasked to curb crimes are enabled and capable enough to hold dangerous offenders and perpetrators accountable and be safe from them without death penalty," said Dumpit.

"The yearning to stop the current scourge of drug addiction and its links to criminality is understandable. [But] revenge as motivation will perpetuate a culture of violence." – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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