Police killing of unarmed mother, son reignites death penalty debates
MANILA, Philippines — The death of mother Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank Anthony at the hands of Police Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca not only sparked outrage among the public but also reignited debates as to whether or not capital punishment should be reinstated in the country.
Following the crime, some lawmakers have come out to voice out their support—renewing their push for the others—to reimpose the death penalty in the Philippines.
Over at the Senate, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief-turned-senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa did not mince his words in saying that Nuezca deserves the death penalty.
Dela Rosa is an author of one of the measures still pending at the upper chamber that seeks to reinstate capital punishment for illegal drug traffickers and manufacturers.
“Yung ginawa ng pulis na cold-blooded killing is double murder (or two counts of murder) and a heinous crime na ang dapat parusa ay death penalty pero hanggang ngayon ay hirap na hirap pa ring umusad yung ino-author kong death penalty bill,” Dela Rosa said.
(The cold-blooded killing by the policeman is double murder and a heinous crime that deserves the death penalty, but until now, my death penalty bill is not moving.)
Senator Manny Pacquiao, who is also pushing for the death penalty for illegal drug traffickers and manufacturers, underscored that the Gregorio killings also show the need for capital punishment to hasten justice for victims of heinous crimes supposedly.
“Naisip niya siguro na mahina naman ang ating batas at kayang-kaya niyang pagdusahan sa kulungan ang kanyang ginawang karumal-dumal na krimen,” Pacquiao said.
(Maybe Nuezca thought that our laws are weak and he can spend time in jail for his crimes.)
“That’s the same mindset prompts criminals to carry out even the most heinous of crimes. Alam kasi ng mga kriminal at mga utak kriminal na makukulong lamang sila kapag gumawa sila ng karumal-dumal na krimen,” the senator added.
(Criminals know that they will only be jailed if they commit a heinous crime.)
There are also lawmakers supporting the death penalty in the House of Representatives.
However, if Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez would be asked, sentiments on the death penalty’s revival should be asked to the Senate, not the House.
After all, during the 17th Congress, the House passed on final reading the bill seeking to reimpose capital punishment for heinous and drug-related offenses. Its counterpart measure in the Senate, however, did not prosper.
“Alam mo hindi dapat sa akin itanong yan eh dahil alam mo, ‘yan yung isang controversial bill na pinasa namin sa House of Representatives nung 17th Congress. Kaya lang pagdating sa Senado walang nangyari. So siguro mas maganda doon mo itanong sa kanila,” Alvarez, another supporter of the death penalty, said when asked about talks on the revival of capital punishment following the Nuezca case.
(The death penalty bill was a controversial bill we passed in the House of Representatives in the 17th Congress. However, when it came to the Senate, nothing happened. I guess it would be better to ask them.)
Not the solution
While the reinstitution of the death penalty has it backers, it also has its critics.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that the death penalty is not the solution to the series of killings happening in the country. For the independent lawmaker, the solution is “dismantling of the culture of violence which no less than the Duterte administration has encouraged, tolerated, and condoned.”
Lagman said that the death penalty is “a brutal violation of the right to life, a serious transgression of human rights, and a patent abandonment of our international commitments against imposing capital punishment.”
The opposition Makabayan bloc has also thumbed down the death penalty, saying that only ordinary citizens would be given such punishment.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said the Nuezca case stemmed from “the fascist orientation and impunity within the Philippine National Police, which is made worse by President Duterte’s shoot-to-kill orders.”
This was backed by Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite who disagreed with death penalty proponents who said that the recent shooting should be used to end the state policy of extrajudicial killings instead of opportunistically pushing the agenda of reinstituting capital punishment.
“This impunity and disregard for the rule of law cannot be remedied by the death penalty but with our return to the reign of justice,” Gaite said.
“This could start by resolving the numerous cases of extrajudicial killings and by ending state-sponsored attacks on the people, including those against drug-related suspects,” he added.
No less than President Rodrigo Duterte has been vocal about his support towards the death penalty.
In his penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July this year, Duterte made another push to reimpose the death penalty in the Philippines for drug-related charges.
However, the death penalty issue has been so controversial that bills seeking to revive it are still pending at the committee level in both the Senate and the House this 18th Congress—again, despite numerous calls for its passage by a popular president like Duterte.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers is hopeful that discussions on the death penalty would move forward with the current Congress.
“Mukhang uusad na ito ngayon at nagsalita naman ang ating Speaker, nagsalita na ang ibang miyembro ng Senado at sinabi nga nila na suportahan ang panawagan ng ating Pangulo, suportahan ang panawagan ng ating kababayan na ibalik itong death penalty,” Barbers said.
(It seems like it will move forward now and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has spoken as well as some members of the Senate that they will support the call of the President and our countrymen to revive the death penalty.)
“Lalong-lalo na dito sa mga crimes, dito sa sinasabing kahindik-hindik na mga krimen (especially for heinous crimes),” he added. [ac]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.