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Life and death

IS it possible that survey results showing a majority in favor of the death penalty were the opinion of victims and survivors of crime, or of persons who knew someone who was destroyed, directly or indirectly, by a dastardly deed?

President Arroyo killed the death penalty in 2006, now there’s a move to resurrect a dead law, and so the debate begins all over again. To Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, the cry to restore capital punishment comes loudest from those who are impatient for a “quick fix.” He says, “They think it’s the solution” when what society needs is an efficient judicial system that begins with law enforcement, prosecution and litigation, and ends with convicting the guilty. In 2004 when he was head of the justice committee in the Senate, the courts lacked judges (only 30 percent of the positions were filled) and prosecutors (only 40 percent of positions filled). Things may have improved a bit, yet “the budgets of DoJ and the courts do not comprise even one percent of the national budget.”

What’s more, the conviction rate is very low: only 3 out of 10, compared with Japan’s 9 and Singapore’s 10 out of 10 (!). Ironically, the low rate here could be seen as a blessing in disguise: It’s almost general knowledge that many prisoners (including ex-cons) were convicted, guilty or not, because they could not afford the services of a decent lawyer.

Wrongful conviction is a big red flag, and as Dr. Nymia Simbulan, UP vice chancellor, tells our Bulong Pulungan, “The death penalty is anti-poor.” In addition, should Congress restore the death penalty, we will “make history” as the first signatory- country to go up against two UN covenants on civil and political rights abolishing the death penalty. There won’t be any sanctions, she adds, but as Senator Pangilinan points out, the European Union can retaliate by slashing trade preferences, in particular the export of tons of tuna and coconut oil.

Bishop Emeritus Ted Bacani advises the emotionally wrought to use reason instead and consider that “each and every life” of earth’s 6.5 billion people is different and special. Yes, even the evil ones. (Jullie Y. Daza)

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