Aguirre to solons: Death penalty will instill fear among criminals
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday asked the House of Representatives to pass the bills seeking to restore the death penalty for heinous crimes to instill fear of death among hardened criminals.
During the House of Representatives justice committee hearing on the death penalty proposals, Aguirre maintained that the restoration of capital punishment will curb crime.
Although he does not have statistics to show that the death penalty could lower crime rate, Aguirre said he could only speak of personal experience.
He noted that during the Marcos regime, there was practically no drug incidence for two years when the dictator Ferdinand Marcos implemented the death penalty.
“We really could not have any empirical data or definite data on this. My only argument here is my personal experience. That I would never commit a heinous crime because I will be penalized and death penalty imposed on me,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said death penalty needs to be imposed to send a chilling effect to criminals, noting that the death penalty was never abolished by the 1987 Constitution.
“If the law on death penalty will be strictly enforced, there is no iota of doubt that this will instill the fear of death in the minds of would-be criminals. In this way, people with criminal mind would think twice before they commit crimes, especially heinous ones,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said the Constitution has allowed Congress to reimpose the death penalty if needed, which means it was never absent in the country’s Charter.
“The penalty is not completely abolished by the 1987 Constitution. Rather it merely suspended death penalty and gave Congress discretion to review it… Death penalty is still present in our Constitution and if Congress decides to revive it, it could be done,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said life imprisonment has failed to stop people from committing crimes, citing the proliferation of drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison by convicted criminals from behind bars.
“We have the inmates at the Bilibid prison being sentenced to life imprisonment, and yet it could not serve as deterrent, as a matter of fact, they are enjoying life there and engaging in drug trades,” Aguirre said.
“By just giving them imprisonment, we are giving them favors. If they are put to death, it would stop their criminal activities,” Aguirre added.
For his part, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the veteran lawmaker who pushed for the abolition of capital punishment by Congress in 2006, said death penalty has been a punishment since time immemorial but still failed to curb crimes.
He cited the classic tale of pickpocketing being rampant during public hangings in England despite pickpocketing being a crime also punishable by death.
“That would only validate that since time immemorial, death penalty is imposed for varying types of crimes but until now, crimes punishable by death penalty are still committed so much so that the conclusion is that there is no deterrent effect,” Lagman said.
Lagman said the 1987 Constitution clearly abolished death penalty.
“It’s clear the Constitution of 1987 abolished death penalty… If we read the constitutional provisions which say neither shall death penalty be imposed unless for compelling reasons… That’s a virtual abolition of death penalty,” Lagman said.
He said there are other forms of meting out justice against criminals, citing the range of maximum penalties and life imprisonment.
“Justice can be served other than imposing the death penalty. When the death penalty was not imposed under the new Constitution, was justice not served for those who were convicted of crimes? They were served with imprisonment, which is a form of justice to the victims of crimes,” Lagman said.
“Death penalty is not the only penalty to give justice to the victims. That’s why there is a range of penalties because this range of penalties will be serving justice in different degrees,” he added.
For his part, Chief Supt. Augusto Marquez Jr. of the Philippine National Police told lawmakers that the police supports the reimposition of death penalty to aid law enforcement agencies to curb crime.
“The PNP supports the consolidation and passage of bills for reimposition of death penalty, as they would aid law enforcement agencies in deterring the commission of crime,” Marquez said, noting that the threat of death to criminals effectively curbed the crime rate since the administration waged its bloody war on drugs.
It was Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who first filed the bill seeking to reimpose death penalty after former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished capital punishment in 2006 for its failure to deter crime.
Alvarez filed the bill to reinstate death penalty, pursuant to President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise of returning capital punishment against heinous criminals.
Alvarez’s bill sought to reimpose death penalty on heinous crimes listed under Republic Act 7659, including murder, plunder, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, sale, use and possession of illegal drugs, carnapping with homicide, among others.
In the bill he co-authored with deputy speaker Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, Alvarez said there is a need to reimpose death penalty because “the national crime rate has grown to such alarming proportions requiring an all-out offensive against all forms of felonious acts.”
“Philippine society is left with no option but to deal with certain grievous offenders in a manner commensurate to the gravity, perversity, atrociousness and repugnance of their crimes,” according to the bill.
Duterte has won the elections in a campaign promise to restore death penalty by hanging, even making a snide remark that the convicts’ head should be severed from the hanging. Alvarez said Congress would look into the cheapest way for death penalty, either by firing squad, lethal injection, or by hanging.
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