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Death penalty?

President Rodrigo Duterte’s winning standard in the 2016 elections was a campaign vow on a war against drugs, crime and corruption. The “provinciano” up to the “Ayala elites” could identify with the serious issues raised, realizing the conviction behind the simplicity of the messaging. Part of the current administration’s mandate was the pledge to return the “death penalty”.

Inversely put, there was no campaign platform on “reclusion perpetua” as a method to address the rise in heinous crimes. It will be recalled, candidate Mayor Duterte was clear and specific in his public pronouncements on the death penalty as a “punitive” measure and not reformative. Several legislative bills are pending on the re-imposition of said penalty.

This is to be applied versus crimes committed ex. murder, rape, parricide, infanticide, to include manufacture, selling, and possession of drugs of a specified quantity. The proposed law is comprehensive and laudable but I equivocate on the shot-gun approach, as one shoe does not fit all sizes. For example, there is quantitative observation, when the sentence for rape was previously increased to “death penalty”, a rise in dead women victims ocurred.

Caution is advised, as the bedrock of criminal law is in William Blackstone, “It is better that 10 guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer”. A test phase must be considered, confined to the most serious national problem – manufacture of drugs. Those caught red-handed “cooking” in shabu laboratories, or in possession of large quantities, must suffer lethal injection.

The caveat for a lithmus period is for political oversight and an independent judicial assessment of the penalty vis-a-vis “wrongful convictions?” And whether such exist in Philippine setting? Note in the US, several studies indicate an approximate error rate of 0.27% (2006 Opinion by the late Federal SC Justice Antonin Scalia). The red flags: eyewitness misidentification, fake confession, perjured testimony, forensic error, tunnel vision, government/presecutorial misconduct, substandard lawyering etc. (Erik Espina)