CEBU CITY – Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on late Saturday afternoon joined the Catholic Church’s Walk for Life here.
The Liberal Party president, who was in the city to stand as sponsor at the wedding of an election volunteer, spoke against the administration’s attempt to revive the death penalty in the country.
He reiterated the arguments against capital punishment which he enumerated during a public consultation at the University of San Carlos the day before, February 17.
“Hindi mabisa ang bitay. Hindi nito pinipigil ang paggawa ng krimen. Ang may bisa ay kung gaano kasiguro na mapaparusahan ang maysala, hindi kung gaano katindi ang parusa (Death penalty does not work. It does not deter the commission of crimes. What works is certainty of punishment, not its severity),” Pangilinan said.
Government statistics show that 10,000 more crimes were committed when capital punishment was still in place from 1996 to 2006, and crime rate has continued to drop between 2009 and 2015 after the death penalty was abolished.
At the public consultation, a representative of the Carolinians Political Science Society, the organization of political science students of the University of San Carlos, pointed out that death penalty does not work because people who commit crimes plan on not being caught.
Pangilinan also cited the Supreme Court, which said that in its review of capital punishment cases, judges in the lower courts were wrong 71.77% of the time.
“Ang ibig sabihin nito, nagkamali ang mabababang hukom sa pito sa bawat sampung Pilipinong hinatulan nila ng kamatayan (This means that the lower courts made a mistake imposing the death penalty to 7 of 10 Filipinos of these cases),” he said.
Pangilinan also said that death penalty is anti-poor.
“Pinabibigat pa lalo nito ang pasanin ng mahihirap. Siya nang aba at walang kapit o kakilala, siya pang ginigipit nito (To add to the everyday injustice that the poor and the powerless suffer, death penalty overwhelmingly victimizes them),” he said.
Pangilinan also said restoring the death penalty violates international laws, which President Duterte himself has sworn to abide by.
“In 2006, the Liberal Party voted to abolish the death penalty. The reasons for our vote remain. We reiterate our position against re-imposing a form of punishment that is cruel, degrading, and inhuman,” said the party president.
To partially but substantially address the injustice in the country, Pangilinan said the judicial system must be modernized.
“Mauumpisahan natin ito sa pagbigay tutok sa problema. Tipunin ulit ang JELAC para tugunan ang mabagal na pag-usad ng mga kaso at punan ang mga kakulangan sa mga huwes at piskal na siyang dahilan kung bakit parating na-po-postpone ang mga pandinig sa mga kaso (Let’s start with focusing on the problem. Convene JELAC again to respond to the slow progress in cases and fill the vacancies among judges and prosecutors which is the reason why most hearings are postponed),” he said.
JELAC stands for the Joint Judicial Executive Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council, which was convened twice during President Arroyo’s time. Pangilinan’s brainchild, JELAC resulted in an increase in the budget of the judiciary.
At the public consultation, lawyer Regal Oliva of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Cebu said: “Are we ready to welcome back the death penalty? I think we should strengthen the justice system first. The courts are burdened by so many cases. Each judge has between 3,000 and 4,000 cases. Given this, a wrong decision, including a death sentence, is highly probable.”
Catherine Ruiz, of Kaabag sa Sugbo Foundation Inc., called on the Duterte administration to focus on issues more important than the death penalty like poverty and underemployment and unemployment. Kaabag sa Sugbo is a network of 26 civil society organizations based in Cebu that engages various governance stakeholders in sustainable development.
At the same public consultation, lawyer Vincent Isles read the position paper of The Silent Majority: “The Duterte administration has, time and time again, insulted the dignity of the Filipino people by not putting up measures to stop the wave of killings that has happened since it assumed office. It should not finally kill that dignity of the Filipino, enshrined in no less than our Constitution, by legalizing murder by State agents, no matter how the process went through the defective Philippine justice system. The death penalty must remain stricken off our statute books: the death penalty is the death of the dignity of the Filipino.”