Justice chief ‘fooling’ public on death penalty

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The House senior deputy minority leader has accused Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd of “misleading” the public in order to drum up support for death penalty.

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“Secretary Aguirre’s claim that death sentences are needed to implant fear in the hearts of hardened criminals has long been discredited by extensive social science research,” Lito Atienza Atienza, also Buhay party-list group representative, said in a statement on Monday.

“Ample studies have demonstrated that people commit crimes largely in the heat of passion, such as in cases of road rage, or because they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or because they are mentally ill. These would-be criminals give little or no forethought to their actions, and won’t be discouraged by any fear of death,” Atienza added.

He said the people who actually contemplate their crimes beforehand, such as professional killers, as well as syndicated drug traffickers, robbers, kidnappers and carjackers, intend and expect to avoid capture and punishment.

Thus, the lawmaker said the best way to quash crime would be to guarantee the swift apprehension and imprisonment of felons, especially those hoping to get away.

Aguirre earlier said the death penalty has to be restored to send a chilling message to criminals.

“If the death penalty will be strictly enforced, there is no iota of doubt that this will instill the fear of death in the minds of would-be criminals. In this way, people with criminal minds would think twice before they commit offenses, especially heinous ones,” he added.

Atienza, however, said the death penalty runs counter to the faith of most Filipinos.

“More than 86 percent of Filipinos are Catholic, and our faith teaches us that every human being has the right to life, which is absolutely sacred,” he noted.

Atienza warned that the country would be openly violating international treaties once Congress returns capital punishment.

“We must stress that we are party to international agreements that expressly forbid executions and any form of cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment,” he said.

The lawmaker said government would achieve far more in suppressing crime if it purged the justice system of crooked police officers, prosecutors, judges and prison officials.

“Right now, police officers for instance are fighting crime with one hand practically tied behind their back, because many of their colleagues are either engaged in all sorts of criminal activities, or giving protection to felons, from drug traffickers to street snatchers,” Atienza added.

He cited the latest case of five police officers involved in a brazen kidnapping and carjacking in Cagayan de Oro City (Misamis Oriental).

The officers were caught on closed-circuit TV abducting a man who remains missing up to now.

“Every day, we have reports of corrupt officers getting caught up in criminality. Thus, if we simply apprehended and put behind bars all the rotten officers, we would have fewer heinous crimes everywhere,” he pointed out.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said he expects the House to pass the bill reviving the death penalty for heinous crimes before the Christmas recess.

Alvarez himself authored the bill that seeks to mete out death sentences to offenders convicted of drug felonies, murder, rape, robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, bribery, plunder, parricide, infanticide, destructive arson, piracy and treason.

Atienza, however, prefers that the same offenses be punished with imprisonment for 40 years, or until the convict reaches 70 years old, without the benefit of possible early release.

Congress abolished capital punishment in 2006 as a result of mounting flaws, including belated discovery of the wrongful execution of Leo Echegaray.

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