ANYTIME soon, one of the 88 Filipinos now held on Death Row in various countries around the world – where 2.5 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) live and work today – will be scheduled for execution. As in all previous cases, the Philippines will make an appeal for clemency, with the nation hoping the appeal will be heeded and the Filipino death convict’s life spared.
For that is who we are as a people. We were one with the family of Jakatia Pawa who appealed for her life last week and our Philippine Embassy in Kuwait did all it could with the Kuwaiti government and the family of the girl allegedly killed by Jakatia, who maintained her innocence to the end. We were one with the thousands around the world who appealed to President Widodo of Indonesia in 2015 for the life of Mary Jane Veloso convicted of drug trafficking.
But if Congress, as sought by the new administration, now restores the death penalty and we start executing our own death convicts, “we will lose any moral authority to ask for clemency for our Filipinos who have been sentenced to death abroad,” Bishop Ruperto Santos, chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Mission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerent People, said.
The bishop was joined in his view by Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, House senior deputy minority leader, who said that once Congress reinstates the death sentence here, and the government starts executing six convicts a day as the President once threatened, there would be more Jakatias and we could not appeal for clemency for them.
The Philippines abolished the death penalty in our 1987 Constitution, “unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress thereafter provides for it.” There was a brief period in 1993 when seven were executed in the wake of a series of heinous crimes, but here have been none since. Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 2007 a resolution calling on member countries to adopt a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. A new resolution was adopted in 2010, approved by 109 countries, including the Philippines.
Congress is now reported poised to approve a death penalty bill as part of the government’s anti-crime drive, although many authorities believe that stricter and more effective law and judicial enforcement would be a stronger deterrent to crime than the death penalty.
In any case, we must be prepared – should it ever come to pass that we start executing our own death convicts – that can no longer appeal for our Jakatias and our May Janes facing execution abroad. As Bishop Santos pointed out, we would have lost any moral authority to seek clemency for them.