KNOWING that President Rody Duterte is a rather tolerant and kindhearted person, we are not worrying about the job security of the top leadership of the Department of Social Welfare and Development who have “rejected” – a rather bold term – the President’s wish to revive the death penalty for people convicted of heinous crimes.
DSWD officials, whom the President can justifiably fire for going against his policy decisions, reject the use of capital punishment because in the end it turns out to be an anti-poor policy.
The rich who commit the heinous crimes for which laws here prescribe the death penalty (but suspended in practice for a few years now) are more often than not able to escape being executed. This in the first place is because the rich can afford the best lawyers, and are able to present dozens of credible character witnesses who can convince judges of the wisdom and practicality of sparing the rich convict. Poor convicts, who get convicted in the first place because they have only the pro-bono lawyers appointed by the court to argue for them, nearly always lose their appeals.
DSWD Assistant Secretary Maria Lourdes Turalde-Jarabe says criminality is determined by a number of factors including “poverty, lack of education, marginal economic opportunities, and even disabilities.”
Asec Jarabe cited a research study conducted in 2004 by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) that yields the finding that “71 percent of death sentences handed down by trial courts were wrongfully imposed.”
Most of the persons meted the death sentence don’t have the money for a good defense counsel. The research study shows that “70 percent of the 1,021 inmates on death row earned less than P10,000,” Turalde-Jarabe said.
The pro-bono public attorneys are overworked and underpaid. They rarely provide excellent defense service for their poor clients.
On the other hand, the wealthy offenders have batteries of private topnotch counsels who work on their cases full-time.
The author of one of the bills restoring the death penalty is Senator Vicente Sotto III. We have lauded him for being a pro-life lawmaker, when it comes to fighting moves to legalize abortion and making it easily accessible. We wish his pro-life stand would extend to convicts.
He has declared his willingness to limit the crimes punishable by death to “high-level drug trafficking and manufacturing.” He has been quoted by ABS-CBN to have said, “I’m willing to forego the other crimes. With that, the anti-poor card will not fly because there is no drug lord na mahirap (who is poor).”
Senator Risa Hontiveros, however, said government corruption and our country’s defective criminal justice system also give capital punishment “a disproportionate impact on the poor.” The Philippines is not yet ready for the death penalty so long as public officials can be bribed, and fair and speedy trial cannot be guaranteed for all, she said.
She compared the death penalty to state-sanctioned extra-judicial killings, which she said can only be enforced on the poor.
Congratulations and God bless you, DSWD, for opposing the death penalty.