FULL TEXT: ‘Kill a person and you kill him his other rights’ – Roque


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FULL TEXT: ‘Kill a person and you kill him his other rights’ – Roque
Kabayan Representative Harry Roque says: 'The right to life is non-derogable, whether in times of peace or in times of war. This right cannot be denied to anyone, regardless of the circumstances.'

The House of Representatives approved on 3rd and final reading the death penalty bill on Tuesday, March 7 with a vote of 217-54-1.

Congressmen were given a chance to explain their votes before the plenary. Among them was Kabayan Representative Harry Roque, who voted against House Bill 4727.

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


Let me state at the outset that, as a legislator, President Rodrigo Duterte will always find in me a strong supporter of his stance towards an independent foreign policy. 

Indeed, much of my professional life as a lawyer has been spent advocating for a Philippines free from the shackles of foreign domination.   

Having said that, the reason why I am with the Minority is precisely because of the two legislative initiatives of the Majority that I cannot in good conscience support: The reimposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

As I have stated in my first privilege speech in Congress on August 1, 2016, on the issue of extralegal killings, the right to life is the foundation to all other rights. Kill a person and you also kill along with him all his other rights. 

The right to life is non-derogable, whether in times of peace or in times of war. This right cannot be denied to anyone, regardless of the circumstances. The right to life means it is the highest of all societal values, so that it cannot be easily dispensed with.

A person wrongfully executed for a crime he or she did not commit is a denial of a basic principle of criminal law as expressed in the great English jurist William Blackstone’s famousformulation: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

This echoes an ancient maxim from the Latin jurists – tutius semper est errare in acquietando, quam in puniendo; ex parte misericordiae quam ex parte justitiae: it is always safer to err in acquitting than in punishing; to be on the side of mercy rather than to be on the side of justice.

Indeed, the dysfunctions of our criminal justice system raise real issues about its susceptibility to arbitrariness and abuse; moreover, a death sentence, once implemented, is irreversible.

The automatic review of a death penalty case, if it is at all made a part of the law as before, provides little comfort.  

Our past experience shows that precisely, given the many gaps in our criminal justice system, the process of review takes a good many years; a death convict eventually exonerated by the High Court will have to look back with much regret at the years the appeals process wasted on his life as he waited for the ax to fall – or not.

It is wrong to propose the death penalty as a solution when the primary problem of our criminal justice system is effective enforcement and prosecution of law. There is always the high probability of someone being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death because of our dysfunctional criminal justice system. 

Instead of imposing the death penalty, we should address the inefficiencies in our prosecutorial system at its very root, to ensure that no one is wrongfully convicted of any crime.

Finally, as a signatory to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, we have a good faith obligation to fulfill our international commitments.

Our abrupt and whimsical withdrawal from this treaty commitment sends the message to the international community that we cannot be trusted to keep to our other international obligations. 

As a responsible member of the international community we must abide by the principle of pacta sunt servanda, especially on such a crucial issue as the right to life. 

For this reason, I vote against the restoration of the death penalty in the Philippines. – Rappler.com

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