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Death penalty foes brace for House debates

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
/ 05:00 AM December 26, 2016
Parishioners in San Carlos City in Pangasinan province add their collective voice to calls against the reimposition of death penalty. —RAY ZAMBRANO

Parishioners in San Carlos City in Pangasinan province add their collective voice to calls against the reimposition of death penalty. —RAY ZAMBRANO

Various groups opposing the reimposition of capital punishment met last week  to consolidate their efforts over the holiday season to prepare for the debates in January in the House of Representatives, as allies of President Duterte vowed to revive the law that was abolished a decade ago.

Among those who attended the meeting was opposition lawmaker Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, several of his fellow legislators, members of civil society organizations, faith-based groups, and the Commission on Human Rights, who all anticipate “an intense debate next year.”

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In a tweet, Baguilat said: “It’s a meeting of antideath penalty advocates. Sama-sama na. Ayusin na mensahe at palakasin na kampanya (We’re working together. Let’s send out the right message and strengthen the campaign). Stop the domino effect from the start.”

Baguilat was referring to the likelihood President Duterte and Congress would be able to easily enact other measures, such as lowering of the age of criminal responsibility, federalism and charter change, if the death penalty becomes law.

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The antideath penalty advocates say that capital punishment has not been proven to deter crime. They add that there is no compelling reason for it, which they argue is a condition set by the Constitution for legislating death penalty.

The President and his supporters, on the other hand, believe death penalty, which is a priority measure in the House, will address what he claims is a worsening of the illegal drug trade in the country.

Mr. Duterte has said he wants five to six executions daily once the death penalty is revived because he will “destroy those who destroy his country.”

Sought for comment on this, Vice President Leni Robredo expressed concern over Mr. Duterte’s statement, “especially now that more than 78 percent of Filipinos have expressed fear of becoming victims of extrajudicial killings.” She was referring to results of a survey by the Social Weather Stations.

“We have failed our people if even the innocent are now scared, fearing for their safety,” Robredo said.

Robredo said that instead of government “promoting the culture of death and violence, we should give attention to what each Filipinos need the most: employment, quality education, free medicines and hospitalization, and many others.”

“The most effective way to address criminality is the enforcement of law and the cooperation between the people and government,” she said.

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“The biggest obstacle is fighting the indifference of the public. Public opinion is very crucial, which could go head to head with the (political) party muscle (of President Duterte’s allies),” Baguilat said.

Baguilat, a member of the House independent minority calling itself the Magnificent 7, was certain that Duterte allies in Congress are trying to convince other representatives to support the measure.

“There are many congressmen who are against the death penalty compared to the solid prodeath penalty,” Baguilat said.

Baguilat urged the Catholic hierarchy and other faith-based institutions to “mobilize now.”

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