Guevarra backs death penalty: It may 'somehow deter crimes'

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday, July 23, expressed support for the death penalty bill, a priority of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"I believe that the imposition of the death penalty may somehow deter the commission of serious crimes," Guevarra told reporters on Tuesday, a day after Duterte once again pushed for the death penalty for drug crimes and plunder during his State of the Nation Address.

While the measure easily passed the House of Representatives in the previous 17th Congress, it still faces a tough challenge ahead in the Senate as Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it would be a "very divisive" bill.

The death penalty is opposed both by pro-life and progressive lawmakers.

The Liberal Party's Senator Leila de Lima filed an alternative. The senator, who is detained over drug charges, proposed imposing a 50-year prison term without parole for heinous crimes, including violations of the law she had been charged with.

"Indeed it is difficult to measure or prove a negative proposition; who will ever know how many crimes did not happen because of the fear of the death penalty?" Guevarra said, defending the measure from criticism that there is no science that can prove its deterrent factor.

Guevarra added: "But ordinary human behavior indicates that the fear of being put to death for the commission of a crime will naturally prompt a criminally minded person to think twice."

Sotto said he expects heavy debates in the upper chamber, especially on imposing the death penalty on plunder convicts.

Senators Ronald dela Rosa, Panfilo Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, and Bong Go have filed bills seeking to reinstate the death penalty for heinous crimes related to drugs, but only Go wants plunder covered as well. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.