The country will not see public hangings during the term of President Rodrigo Duterte even if Congress will rush a measure reinstating capital punishment, Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said on Sunday.
Atienza noted that a bill that seeks to restore death penalty is yet to be passed. Also, he said the trial of a suspect until his or her conviction could take as long as five years, thus, it is likely that Duterte’s wish to hang convicted criminals will not happen during his term.
Atienza cited the previous cases of Leo Echegaray, Eduardo Agbayani, Dante Piandiong, Archie Bulan, Jesus Morallos, Pablito Andan and Alex Bartolome who were put to death through lethal injection at an average of 61 months after they committed their crimes.
Echegaray was convicted for raping his 10-year-old stepdaughter in September 1994. The sentence was affirmed by the Supreme Court in June 1996. Echegaray’s appeal was denied in January 1999. He was executed a month later.
“If we look at the cases of the seven convicts put to death by lethal injection during President [Joseph] Estrada’s term, they were all executed around five years after they committed their crime. Even assuming Congress railroads the revival of the death penalty and it takes effect by early 2017, the initial convicts with final verdicts would start coming in only by the first half of 2022 or the last six months of the President’s term,” Atienza said.
“Five years of waiting is actually a best-case scenario. That does not include potential lawsuits and appeals before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of judicial executions by hanging,” he added.
The death penalty was introduced in the Philippines in the 1920s. It was abolished in 1987 and again restored in 1999 and Congress abolished it again in 2006.
Atienza said instead of pushing the death penalty, the Duterte administration should concentrate on effectively suppressing crime by stamping out corruption in law enforcement, the prosecution service, the courts and in prisons.
“It would be better for the new Congress to push for criminal justice system reforms and ensure that every felon is instantly nabbed, prosecuted, convicted and caged forever. This is our best strategy to fight crime, to dissuade other would-be offenders,” the congressman, who is against the death penalty, pointed out.
He said while the 1987 Constitution allows Congress to reimpose ther death penalty, the Charter also forbids “cruel, degrading or inhumane punishment.”
The former Manila mayor invoked Section 19 of the Bill of Rights that reads, “Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neither shall the death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it.”
“The death penalty has absolutely no place in a civilized nation wholly devoted to the value and dignity of human life,” Atienza said.
But for Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list, Atienza’s scenario is impossible under a Duterte administration.
“That’s Atienza’s wishful thinking. With President Duterte’s resolve in ending illegal drug trade and obliterating drug pushers, Atienza will be in for a surprise,” Batocabe, a lawyer like Duterte, said.
“It will not be far-fetched that he will start counting the body bags of convicted drug lords and pushers sooner than he ever expected,” Batocabe added.