POSTSCRIPT / August 15, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Poor to suffer most with death penalty

WITH our flawed justice system, it would be cruel to restore the death penalty and create a scenario where suspects in serious crimes who are without the means to properly defend themselves face execution rather than rehabilitation.

We can hear again the principle echoing down the centuries that we would rather have 10 guilty persons escape the punishment of death, than have one innocent person condemned and executed.

But these words are lost on President Duterte and his followers in the 18th Congress who seem to see the restoration of capital punishment, more than the reforming of the justice system, as a more effective deterrence to heinous crimes.

As in the extrajudicial killings related to the drug war, suspects who cannot afford the expenses of protecting their rights from the time of their arrest, preliminary investigation and to trial are at a disadvantage and more likely to be convicted – if they have not been shot on the spot.

Unfortunately for the poor and underprivileged, enactment of a law imposing capital punishment is easier done than legislating and carrying out reforms in the justice system. Reforming the flawed setup requires time, resources, a sterling sense of fairness and political will.

Without using the certainty of being caught as deterrence, threatening a criminal with the likelihood of a death sentence as part of law enforcement is taking the line of least resistance.

In Article III (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution, Section 19 says: “Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it.”

By law, the imposition of the death penalty was stopped in 2006 under the Arroyo administration. Capital punishment was in use during the Marcos regime, but after the dictator’s fall, there was a moratorium from 1987 to 1999. Executions were resumed from 1999 to 2006, when a law ended the imposition of capital punishment.

In the current 24-member Senate, those who have voiced support for Duterte’s restoring the death penalty include Senate President Vic Sotto and senators Manny Pacquiao, Bato dela Rosa, Ping Lacson, Bong Go, Win Gatchalian, Cynthia Villar, Imee Marcos, Koko Pimentel, Edgardo Angara, Pia Cayetano, Bong Revilla, Francis Tolentino and Lito Lapid.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon concedes that their opposition group that shrank after the last May midterm election will have a hard time voting down the administration bill restoring the death penalty.

The bill filed by Go on July 2 sought the death penalty for heinous crimes such as illegal drugs trade, plunder, rape, and murder. He proposed that the penalty be carried out by lethal injection or any other method his colleagues may prefer.

Dela Rosa, a former national police chief, filed two days later a similar bill, but only for illegal drug manufacturers and traffickers. He said it would be simpler to execute convicts by hanging. The related bills are expected to be consolidated.

Explaining the opposition’s stand, Drilon said that with the inadequacies of the justice system, reviving capital punishment is akin to giving a death sentence to the poor, who he said would suffer cruel and inhumane punishment.

“No justice will be served if it involves taking a life,” he said. “Let’s be more rational, humane, independent, and conscientious in handling this very sensitive issue.”

Also opposed to the death penalty’s restoration are senators Kiko Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima, who has been detained for the past two years.

Drilon said they are counting on the support of the majority of the people. He cited a Social Weather Stations survey last year showing that seven out of every 10 Filipinos are not in favor of imposing the death penalty on a number of serious crimes.

 ‘Billions in fines not water under the bridge’

THE BILLONS collected from captive consumers for non-existent wastewater treatment facilities by two private concessionaires is not water under the bridge. It must flow back to the victims, according to the Supreme Court.

In a unanimous decision, the SC upheld a 2009 Department of Environment and Natural Resources order penalizing Maynilad Water Services Inc., Manila Water Co. Inc. and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System with a hefty fine for defying the Clean Water Act.

Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, who was the DENR secretary then who went after MWSS and the two firms said:

“Punishment is our best deterrence to violators of our environmental protection laws. We first cited the three entities in April 2009 for violating Section 8 of the Clean Water Act requiring them to provide wastewater treatment facilities and connect sewage lines in all establishments, including households, to a sewerage system.

“The following month, we imposed on them an initial fine of P29.4 million, which has already ballooned to almost P2 billion, and which the Supreme Court now says should be paid inside 15 days, without prejudice to further daily fines until the violators meet the terms of the law.

“Instead of fulfilling their contractual obligation of putting up wastewater treatment facilities, the MWSS and the water concessionaires went to the Court of Appeals, where they lost. They went to the Supreme Court, and now they’ve also lost. It is the end of the road for them.

“They now have to quickly put up sufficient wastewater treatment facilities, as we’ve been repeatedly pointing out in Congress, and connect all households and establishments in their concession areas to a sewerage system. Until they do, they’ll have to continue paying the P322,102 daily fine, which escalates by 10 percent in two years.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 15, 2019)

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