Death penalty restoration draws mixed views from Mindanao leaders
DAVAO CITY –– President Duterte’s proposal to reintroduce capital punishment has drawn mixed reactions from a host of leaders in Mindanao.
On Monday, during his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona), the President asked Congress to restore the death penalty for illicit drugs and plunder.
The proposal echoes Duterte’s vow to step up his administration’s war on drugs and drive against corruption.
Maguindanao Rep. Esmail Mangudadatu said the President’s request “is a clarion call for Congress to act decisively against the menace of corruption and dangerous drugs, which we, as members of the 18th Congress, must support and concretize.”
Mangudadatu added that “the scourge of drug dependency blots the future of the youth, while corruption bleeds the country’s coffers … hence it is high time to mete … death against those who persist in committing these dastardly crimes.”
Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan said the President only wanted “a deterrent against heinous crimes, which is what our people need.”
“The death penalty is the only language that can frighten drug lords and corrupt officials,” explained Edgar Lim, manager of Permex Producers and Exporters Corp. in Zamboanga City.
“Otherwise, the plunderers and drug lords will continue with impunity unless their life is at stake.”
The 1987 Constitution abolished the death penalty but gave Congress the power to enact one for heinous crimes.
Capital punishment for heinous crimes was reintroduced in 1996, only to be scrapped in 2006.
Just like in previous years, religious leaders stood their ground against the reintroduction of death into the country’s penal system.
Archbishop Martin Jumoad of the Ozamiz Archdiocese said the Catholic Church “is always against the death penalty because of the hope that the culprit will change while in jail.”
“We believe in God’s grace to effect change in human life,” Jumoad stressed.
“We adhere to the Pope’s doctrine that death, as a punishment, is inadmissible and an attack on the dignity of the person,” said Claretian missionary priest Angel Calvo, president of the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance.
“Death penalty violates the right to life and there is no conclusive evidence that it can deter crime more effectively,” said Sultan Maguid Maruhom, executive director of Pagadian City-based group Ummah Fi Salam.
Maruhom said the death penalty is against international laws which the Philippines is a party of, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “which was firmed up to enhance life.”
Not good deterrent
“We condemn that, as a church, not only because of our faith but also because the death penalty has never been proven to deter criminal acts,” Bishop Antonio Ablon of Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in Pagadian City, emphasized.
“Studies show that the death penalty is not a deterrent to any form of crime … undermines the fallibility of the justice system, desecrates the right to life, promotes punitive and retributive justice rather than restorative justice and further disadvantages the poor,” laments Fr. Jude Angeles, Vicar General of the Santa Isabel Prelature in Isabela City, Basilan.
Maruhom is worried that the poor, “who are usually left behind in the search for justice” end up the ones lining up for state-sanctioned killing.
“It is very dangerous because our judicial system has not yet been reformed effectively. There is fear that it will be exploited by the powerful and applied in a discriminatory manner … especially for the poor,” Maruhom said.
Fix the justice system
Instead of imposing the death penalty, the President should strengthen the country’s legal and justice systems to deter heinous crimes, Angeles counseled.
“The justice system of the Philippines is one problem. Because they cannot hire good lawyers, the innocent poor could easily be the subjects of the death penalty,” said Ablon.
Dr. Arlyn Jawad Jumaoas, executive director of the nongovernment Save the Children from War in Basilan, reminded the national government that injustices may not be solved by the death penalty.
“Man’s justice will never be perfect, when you kill a person in error, you can never rectify your mistake,” said Jumaoas, whose father was executed in Lamitan City while she was young.
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