IF the recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia surveys are to be used as a gauge of the people’s pulse, then lawmakers must take cognizance of the sizable magnitude of public support for the restoration of the death penalty on drug-related heinous crimes.
The April SWS survey found that a majority, 61 percent, of Filipinos were in favor of the proposal, and the rates of approval were even higher for those with knowledge of the issue.
Forty-eight percent of the responses had partial (but sufficient) or extensive knowledge of the proposal to revive capital punishment on drug-related heinous crimes, indicating that nearly half of the Filipino population were watching developments on the pending legislation.
The proportion of knowledgeable respondents was higher than those with little knowledge of the issue. Ten percent of respondents had no knowledge of the issue at all, and yet a full third of them were in favor of the death penalty for drug-related heinous crimes.
Pulse Asia reports an even higher proportion of overall approval for the death penalty in its March survey, at 67 percent, and the percentage goes up further if the crime in question is drug pushing – to 71 percent.
It is, thus, a bit premature for the likes of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Francis Pangilinan to indicate that the measure was dead on arrival in the Senate because they and their closest colleagues did not agree with it.
These are the same people who rammed the Reproductive Health (RH) bill through Congress despite Catholic opposition to it, justifying their stance by citing SWS and Pulse Asia.
Now Drilon, Pangilinan and the rest of the Liberal Party bloc in the Senate find refuge in the Church’s blanket rejection of the death penalty, sweeping aside SWS and Pulse Asia, just to carry out an obstructionist agenda.
Yet, by all indications, House Bill 4727, passed on third and final reading by the House of Representatives at the end of May, is a popular bill. It is not a blanket death penalty bill, as it imposes capital punishment only on the manufacture or sale of illegal drugs, the maintenance of drug dens and heinous crimes committed under the influence of drugs.
The liberal argument that the justice system is too weak for the reimposition of the death penalty can be turned on its head. It is precisely because the justice system is malleable that criminals get away with murder, and big-time drug dealers are able to operate freely under the noses of authorities.
There will be an automatic review either by the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, with no less than the Chief Public Attorney or even the Solicitor General handling the automatic appeal, to “avoid a miscarriage of justice.”
Now, the bill has its merits and demerits. But as in the RH debate, these cannot be ventilated in public unless the legislative mill is allowed to grind.
If Drilon and Pangilinan are really “democrats,” to borrow from the question of the BBC’s Stephen Sackur, they would allow the bill to go through the scrutiny of the Senate, not declare it dead on arrival.
The Senate should immediately call for committee hearings on the proposal. That’s the least it could do to satisfy public clamor for a stronger hand against drug-related crimes.