A Capital Defense Unit with a budget of P260 million that would provide legal assistance to convicts who will be meted death penalty has been proposed in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Luis Campos Jr. of Makati City (Metro Manila) made the proposal in light of ongoing debates on restoration of capital punishment for heinous crimes in the chamber.
Campos over the weekend noted that there should be a state-funded CDU that will provide topnotch private attorneys to poor convicts facing execution to ensure that nobody gets wrongfully doomed on account of his or her simply being poor and inability to obtain superior legal representation.
“Assuming Congress decides to revive death verdicts for the worst criminal offenders, we have to ensure that disadvantaged individuals accused of capital felonies receive the best legal defense available,” he said in a statement.
According to Campos, the CDU is in accordance with Section 11, Article 3 of the 1987 Constitution that reads, “Adequate legal assistance shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty.”
He suggested that the CDU be run by the University of the Philippines College of Law’s Institute of Human Rights and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, with the university paying for all the legal fees of poor defendants facing potential death sentences.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development, Campos said, will determine the beneficiaries of the CDU, which will be a different office from the Public Attorney’s Office.
“We have to acknowledge that getting hold of adequate legal remedies has a price not everybody can pay,” Campos said.
House leaders have announced that administration lawmakers are likely to vote for the passage of death penalty if the measure will provide that penalties for heinous crimes will range from lifetime imprisonment to death, depending on the judge’s discretion.
But House Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list would not agree to such compromise, warning that only impoverished citizens inadequately represented at trial would get death sentences.
“Moneyed people who are able to retain high-priced lawyers would always escape conviction. Sadly, the quality of legal representation is still the single biggest factor that would determine whether a defendant receives or dodges the death sentence,” Atienza said.
LLANESCA T. PANTI