by Hanna C. Lacsamana
Reps. Marquez O. Go of Baguio and Teddy B. Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao are among the “courageous” 54 lawmakers, who voted against House Bill 4727 or the Re-imposition of the Death Penalty, which was approved by a majority vote at the Lower House on third and final reading.
Casting their votes based on the dictates of their conscience and faith,Go and Baguilat in their respective explanatory notes maintained there is no compelling reason to re-impose the capital punishment and the country should instead focus on fixing the serious defects of its criminal justice system.
“The sanctity of human life is not shed off by any crime. Whether it be of the philosophical theory of human life or how it evolved into our modern concept of human right jurisprudence, human life has certain sanctity that is to be preserved and protected,” Go said.
He said he believes the country must direct its focus not on the severity but rather on the certainty of punishment as a true means of deterring crimes.
“The capability and integrity of our law enforcers, to the lack of prosecutors, clogged court dockets, glaring judicial errors, and inhuman conditions and malpractices inside our national penitentiaries are the defects in our criminal justice system that we have to address. While I share my colleagues’ passion and resolve in addressing criminality in this country, I am afraid that the measure this bill proposes may lead to irreversible mistakes we could not afford,” Go explained.
“We no longer live in a society ruled by a colonial power or an authoritarian regime, wherein rights are dismissed and liberties are curtailed. Rather, we live in a society where the rule of law that prevails is one that protects and promotes the inherent rights of our people,” he added.
Baguilat, for his part, said every person, whatever his or her misdeed, has the right to live and mend their transgressions.
He said the police reported the crime rate in the country has declined even without death penalty. Studies also show that death penalty has not been a deterrent to crimes, and so it is clear that there is no compelling reason to re-impose the same.
The Ifugao lawmaker also said the country’s law enforcement system is flawed and the justice system is weak.
“International groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported that our police have been planting evidence, hiring assassins to kill suspects and acting as judge and executioner. The President has even said that 40 percent of our police force is corrupt to the core. How can we expect justice to be administered when this major pillar of our justice system is corrupt?” Baguilat said.
He also took exception for not being allowed to interpolate after while his colleagues were expressing their arguments favoring the bill during the deliberation.
He said the House members who favored the death penalty did not also consider the economic cost of the measure, adding that the country will lose billions from exports with the re-imposition of the death penalty.
Under the General Systems of Preference of the European Union, Filipino products like garments, electronics, bananas, preserved fruits, and many others, are granted reduced or no tariffs because human rights criteria including the abolition of the death penalty are met.
Trade Sec. Ramon Lopez has reminded that the country’s situation will be in danger if the capital punishment is re-imposed.
“Balang araw ay babalikan natin ang pagkakataong ito at mananagot tayo sa ating mga kababayan. Ang ipapamana ba natin sa ating mga kababayan ay buhay o kamatayan?” Baguilat said.
Reps. Ronald Cosalan of Benguet, Maximo Dalog of Mountain Province, Joseph Bernos of Abra, Eleanor Bulut-Begtang of Apayao, and Allen Jesse Mangaoang of Kalinga are among the 217 solons, who voted in favor of the bill.