Bong calls for return of death penalty; Miriam, Kiko disagree

January 20, 2011

Angie M. Rosales
The Daily Tribune
January 20, 2011

Restoration of death penalty is being laid on the table at the Senate, with one of its members who previously voted for its abolition several years ago, making a sudden turnaround, citing the alarming increase in crime incidents in the country.

Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. initiated the filing of a bill reinstating death as capital punishment in the light of the series of reported carnapping cases and other heinous crimes.

A number of his colleagues, however, have expressed dissent over the idea.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the committee on constitutional amendments, expressed doubts whether it could be a deterrent to the commission of crimes.

“I was in favor of the abolition death penalty and my position has not changed. Since the death penalty, according to statistics, does not have a significant deterrent factor in the prevention of crimes. Not even in many cases by the imposition of death penalty, apparently when a criminal reaches a certain threshold he no longer cares to whatever the penalty might be. So the only thing going for death penalty is that it might frighten potential criminals from committing so-called heinous crimes. But it has not, according to social statisticians,” she said.

Santiago also said they will have to undergo an entire process to reverse an earlier decision.

“That will be very time consuming and it will go against the brain of the global movement against death penalty which has been called for, for example, by the Pope. We’re a predominantly Catholic country so that’s relevant. And by the European Union, even by the United States where some states have abolished the death penalty. So this is a sweeping global phenomenon, we will be going against the current if we will revert to death penalty. The arguments have already been debated,” she added.

Revilla said the spate of criminal incidents obviously indicates that criminals are becoming bolder, citing the cases of Emerson Lozano, Ernani Sensil and Benson Evangelista who, after being car-jacked, were found shot in the head, mutilated and burned beyond recognition.

Revilla added times have changed and stressed the law must be able to cope with these changes.

“People now think they can literally get away with murder. We must do something to take back control,” he said.

Although there are no statistics showing the capital punishment being effective as a deterrent to crimes, the senator believes the death penalty will help in addressing the country’s rising criminality.

“The government must show its will in restoring order. This is a serious step in that direction,” according to Revilla.

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, on the other hand, said the death penalty is not the answer to the seemingly rampant criminality in the country.

“The brazen acts of criminality highlighted by the twin carnappings with the victims even burnt by their captors give a foreboding sense of lawlessness. I agree that this requires immediate action. The government should put its foot down, so to speak. Perhaps a crime czar should be appointed — someone who is resolute and results-driven. This person must be on top of coordinating the efforts of the PNP and the DoJ.”

While Pangilinan sympathizes with the victims’ families and doesn’t condone these heinous crimes, he stressed strict enforcement of the law is what’s needed, not the death penalty.

“We do not support this. It is the certainty, not the severity, of punishment that brings fear in the hearts of would-be criminals. No matter how severe the penalty imposed, if convictions are few and far between, or cases drag on for years on end without punishment, then criminality will remain rampant. It is the swiftness of punishment regardless of the penalty involved that will ensure respect for our laws and instill fear in the hearts of would-be criminals in our criminal justice system,” he said.

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