Senatorial candidate Leila de Lima on Monday vowed to continue opposing any move to re-impose death penalty.
A nemesis of presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, De Lima, however, softened her stance in Duterte's presidency, saying she would "watch him first."
"I do believe that that is not the solution. The solution is to fix the justice system. The new executive should start with the strict and faithful enforcement of laws," De Lima told reporters when asked about the issue of death penalty on the sideline of the book launch of former Immigration commissioner Siegfred Mison on Monday.
In his 1st public appearance since the May 9 elections, Duterte announced he wanted criminals committing heinous crimes including robbery and rape to suffer morbid death like a public hanging.
De Lima, former chief of the Commission on Human Rights, said the government, with the help of Congress, should fix the justice system, instead of jumping into a death penalty legislation.
She said that even if reviving death penalty was a popular move, the issue would undergo thorough and heated debates in the Congress.
De Lima is at the 12th place in partial and unofficial quick count of votes for the Senate by the poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
Asked where she will stand under a Duterte presidency, "Let us observe the new leadership first. Let's see and find out what his domestic and foreign policies. Let's see. I just hope that he would always at all times uphold the Constitution, the rule of law and human rights."
De Lima and Duterte prior and during the campaign period traded barbs. Duterte at one occasion called her bugoksi (stupid) for linking him to extrajudicial killings in Davao.
The erstwhile Davao mayor, who is known for his off-color language and cussing repeatedly, implied his links to the vigilante group Davao Death Squad.
De Lima in previous interviews warned the public about a Duterte presidency, calling him a monster.
"We have to observe and be vigilant. As far as I know, a sitting president has immunity from suits. But there is no such thing as immunity from investigation," De Lima said.
The Philippines abolished capital punishment in June 2006 when then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act No. 9346, also known as An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of the Death Penalty in the Philippines.
Arroyo said the death penalty should be abolished because it had not proven to be a deterrent to crime and had become a dead-letter law. RA 9346 downgraded the death penalty to life imprisonment.
The Philippines has had a history of invoking and scrapping capital punishment since the end of World War II.
Between 1946 and 1965 - the year Ferdinand Marcos became the President - 35 people were executed, mainly convicted of particularly savage crimes marked by "senseless depravity" or "extreme criminal perversity."
Following the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled Marcos from power, then President Corazon Aquino promulgated the 1987 Constitution, which abolished the death penalty "unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, Congress hereafter provides for it."
In 1993, Congress passed RA 7659, or the Death Penalty Law, which reimposed capital punishment.
Under RA 7659, crimes punishable by death included murder, rape, big-time drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, treason, piracy, qualified bribery, parricide, infanticide, plunder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with violence or intimidation, qualified vehicle theft and arson.
In March 1996, through RA 8177, the law was amended prescribing death by lethal injection for offenders convicted of heinous crimes.
But opposition from human rights groups held up executions until 1999.
Between 1999 and 2000, during the term of deposed President Joseph Estrada, 7 inmates were put to death.
The 1st to be executed was Leo Echegaray, on Feb. 9, 1999, and the last was Alex Bartolome, on Jan. 4, 2000. Echegaray was convicted of raping his stepdaughter. Bartolome was convicted also of raping his daughter more than 100 times over 2 years, starting when she was 16.
Source: Philippine Inquirer, May 16, 2016