CHR lauds Lacson-Sotto retraction of support for death penalty
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has thanked both Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III for withdrawing their support for the death penalty, saying that they hope the lawmakers’ recent move would put an end to calls to reinstate capital punishment.
CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said on Friday that the commission would like to stress again, given that the death penalty is being discussed recently —that any action deliberately taking the life of individuals is wrong.
Gomez-Dumpit’s statement came a day after Lacson and Sotto, who are running for president and vice president in the 2022 national elections, confirmed that they are no longer supporting the death penalty.
“Senators Lacson and Sotto cite the possibility of ending the life of an innocent person as the main reason for their change in stance. Indeed, an imperfect criminal justice system may end an innocent life. This recent development is a win for the sanctity of life. We also hope that this is enough to turn the tide in the Senate and halt the proposals to reintroduce capital punishment in the country,” Gomez-Dumpit said.
“The Commission takes this opportunity to reiterate its consistent stand on death penalty: any act that deliberately ends the life of a person is inherently wrong. The death penalty violates human dignity and runs counter to the basic principles of human rights,” she added.
According to the CHR official, the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime, as crime rates did not increase dramatically after it was suspended in 2006 — adding that the certainty that criminals would be held accountable, not the severity of punishment, is what prevents crime.
“The Commission’s study revealed that the support for death penalty mainly lies in wanting to be safe and secure. The heightened fear of becoming a victim of a crime is pushing Filipinos to support harsher penalties. However, the harshness of the penalty is not a deterrent but the certainty of punishment,” Gomez-Dumpit noted.
“The swift administration of justice must be coupled with the rehabilitation of offenders. This is part of improving the criminal justice system. Placing convicted individuals in prison is not the end goal. Any discourse on sustained peace and order necessarily includes the reintegration of offenders to mainstream society. Thus, there is a need to strengthen restorative justice programs in the country,” she added.
Lacson stirred social media discussions as his admission that he is no longer for the death penalty shocked many people, considering that he was once one of the most prominent voices on restoring capital punishment.
Asked about how his opinion about death penalty changed, Lacson attributed this to a movie on streaming site Netflix, which talked about an activist who set himself up for a crime just to prove that innocent people could be punished.
Sotto, his running mate who also filed several measures pushing for death penalty, also shares his views.
“Alam niyo ba, napanood niyo ba sa Netflix ‘yong ‘The Life of David Gale’? Napanood ko ‘yon eh, ‘yon aktibista ‘yon na kung saan sinet-up niya ‘yong sarili niya. Hindi siya ‘yong pumatay pero sinet-up niya para mai-prove lang na ‘yong innocent man could be executed,” Lacson told reporters in a media forum on Thursday.
“I found a better solution eh […] Later on, maganda ‘yong mga posisyon ko ‘don. Pero maganda rin ‘yong mga posisyon nila eh, ‘yong mga kumo-kontra. Alam mo kapag inisip mo nang mabut tama sila eh, except for high-level drug trafficking, tama sila in most of the reasonings that they were using,” Sotto added.
A quick browse on search engines using the keywords “Lacson” and “death penalty” would show numerous articles about the Senator advocating for capital punishment.
But the Netflix show changed it all, he claimed, as he thinks now that saving the life of a wrongly accused person is more important than executing a criminal.
Death penalty has been disallowed by the 1987 Constitution unless for compelling reasons like heinous crimes. But just years after the new constitution, there was a strong push for the punishment’s restoration due to increasing crime rates.
It was successfully re-established by the administration of former president Fidel Ramos, and was implemented by his successor, former president Joseph Estrada. Convicted rapist Leo Echegaray was the first to receive the death penalty, being executed via lethal injection last February 1999.
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