Senator Leila de Lima has called on lawmakers to cross party lines as they deliberate on the measure calling for the immediate reinstatement of the death penalty as capital punishment for heinous crimes.
De Lima made her appeal as the House leadership called members of the so-called supermajority for a party stand on the death penalty measure.
"The issue of possible re-imposition of death penalty is addressed more to the conscience of the members of both houses of Congress," De Lima said in an interview. "Lawmakers should transcend political affiliations in this particular issue, especially with the points raised by some members of the Senate that treaty commitment cannot be taken for granted," she stressed.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier threatened House members, particularly those holding key positions or chairmanships in his chamber, to strip them from their posts if they refuse to support President Rodrigo Duterte's call to restore the death penalty.
Unlike in the House of Representatives, the Senate has different dynamics and thus will deliberate on the measure "based on the cogency and the soundness of the arguments and would not succumb to any type of coercion or arm-twisting."
"But that is something that they cannot do, hopefully, here in the Senate," she said.
The joint Senate committees on justice and human rights and constitutional amendments and revision of codes and laws earlier decided to suspend public hearing on death penalty to review the implications of the country's commitment to treaties and international agreements which prohibit executions and compel member states to abolish death penalty.
The Philippines is signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR, as well as in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which states that "treaties which do not have provisions on withdrawal or denunciation cannot be denounced or be withdrawn from."
Source: Manila Bulletin, February 10, 2017
Death penalty only 'punishes the poor'
Though knowing that he is in the minority, Rep. Raul del Mar of Cebu City's north district remains adamant about his opposition to plans of reimposing the death penalty.
During the interpellation and debate at the House of Representatives last Tuesday, Del Mar said death penalty is never the solution to address crimes.
"When death penalty was applied in the Philippines, was there any showing that it worked? There is no evidence that death penalty is more effective than for-life imprisonment," he said.
Among the first bills filed by Congress this year was the reinstatement of death penalty.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said they are targeting to submit the bill to reinstate death penalty next month.
Legislators opposing the death penalty also pointed to the "conflict of interest" by proponents who lobbied to remove the inclusion of plunder in the list of crimes punishable by death.
In opposing the reinstatement of capital punishment or death penalty, Del Mar said it punishes only poor people who could not afford the best lawyers to defend them.
"Do you agree that the Philippine justice system is ill-equipped and severely flawed? Do you dispute the fact that most of those who end up in the death row had deficient defense because they were poor and had no money to get witnesses, pay good lawyers, or bribe judges?" he said.
The lawmaker said there is a possibility that innocent individuals will be subjected to death.
He said in the US, 68 % of all death penalties were reversed either because the evidence was insufficient or illegally admitted.
"Once an innocent person is put to death, is it not an act that can never be reversed? Bad enough if an innocent person is jailed but at least he is still alive when the wrong is corrected," he said.
Del Mar described the death penalty as "barbaric, antiquated, and regressive."
He said at least 105 countries had rejected it and several religious denominations also denounced it as policy.
As a country whose population is mostly Catholic, del Mar said the faithful believe in retribution, but not by taking human life.
"The 'eye-for-an-eye' injunction in the Old Testament has long been replaced by the 'turn-the-other-cheek' advice in the New Testament," Del Mar said.
"Catholics and other Christians believe in repentance and the capacity of sinners to reform. The death penalty totally rejects that possibility," he said.
Source: cebudailynews.inquirer.net, February 10, 2017
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