Monday, August 10, 2009

Philippine Death Penalty to be Revived?

Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago (NPC) has played down the fresh initiative to revive the death penalty, calling it "a pipe dream."

"There is no way Congress will reinstate the death penalty, not during our watch," Santiago said.

He also expressed confidence that President Macapagal-Arroyo, whom he described as "pro-life at heart," would never push for the return of capital punishment.

Mrs. Arroyo voted against the restoration of the death penalty in 1993, when she was still a senator.

As President, Mrs. Arroyo also did not carry out any executions, until she ordered the mass commutation to life imprisonment of the death sentences meted out to 1,200 convicts in April 2006, a move that prompted Congress to abolish capital punishment two months later.

"We maintain that the death penalty, as a potential deterrence to crime, serves no purpose that cannot be achieved by life imprisonment. This was one of the compelling reasons why we abolished it only three years ago," Santiago said.

"The death penalty is cruel, inhuman and immoral punishment that violates the sanctity of human life," he added.

Santiago criticized a number of his colleagues in the House "for playing with the passion of the public" following the supposed abduction and rape by drug traffickers of a minor daughter of an anti-narcotics agents, a report that later turned out to be a hoax.

"Whether or not the supposed abduction and rape happened is beside the point. Congress already established the death penalty as totally ineffective and unnecessary," he said.

Santiago described the country's drug problem as "a growing law enforcement issue."

"The only way we can suppress it is through a sweeping strategy to effectively reduce both the supply of and demand for illegal drugs," he said.

"We have to destroy more shabu laboratories and put more traffickers behind bars, while we send more (drug) users to treatment and detoxification centers. And we have to do this while purging our criminal justice system of rotten individuals that coddle traffickers," Santiago said.

Since the Philippines abolished the death penalty in June 2006, Santiago said seven other countries -- Albania, Cook Islands, Rwanda, Uzbekistan, Argentina, Burundi and Tago -- have abolished the punishment for all crimes. Two others -- Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan -- abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes.