President Rodrigo Duterte’s wish to put five to six malefactors to death every day, or more than 2,000 every year, once granted by Congress, would sink the Philippines into “an unprecedented era of darkness and medieval savagery,” House Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza warned on Monday.
“If the President had his way, our predominantly Catholic country could go down as the world’s new top executioner, ahead of non-Catholic countries such as China, Iran and Pakistan,” Atienza said.
He denounced the planned restoration of the death penalty as “anathema to our celebration of life.”
“We Filipinos celebrate life. In fact, we celebrate life so much that despite our usual troubles, we’ve been persistently rated among the happiest people in the world,” Atienza said.
“We do not want to be brutalized by constant bloodshed. We Filipinos loathe killings, whether judicial or extrajudicial, as much as we detest violent crime,” according to the lawmaker.
He said, “It is bad enough we already have a virtual death penalty in place, with the unabated summary executions of alleged suspects sans the benefit of a full and fair trial.”
At least 1,634 convicts were executed in 25 countries around the world in 2015, according to Amnesty International, which is yet to release its 2016 figures.
Excluding China, only three countries – Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia – were responsible for nearly 90 percent of the executions.
Iran executed 977 convicts by hanging in 2015, while Pakistan put 326 to death, also by hanging.
Saudi Arabia killed 158 by beheading.
The number of executions in China is regarded a state secret.
But separate estimates by Amnesty International and the Cornell Law School put the number of annual executions in China by lethal injection anywhere from as low as “more than 1,000” to as high as “at least 2,400.”
Atienza earlier equated the death penalty “to a Band-Aid remedy being applied to a gravely ill patient in the emergency room.”
“Our criminal justice system is like a very sick patient that needs immediate surgical treatment. If we are to save the patient, we have to cut off the rampant tumor of corruption. A Band-Aid solution such as the death penalty simply won’t work,” he said.
Both the Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings and the House probe of the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prisons have shown that the criminal justice system — from law enforcement to corrections — has been overwhelmed by corruption, the opposition lawmaker said.
“The real problem is clearly corruption. The problem is not with the severity of the punishment for crime. In fact, corruption is the primary reason why many felons are not getting caught, and not getting punished, and this in turn has only abetted even more crime,” Atienza pointed out.
Congress is set to resume session on January 16 with the bill reinstating death sentences for heinous crimes on top of the agenda for plenary approval.
The House committee on justice earlier recommended the immediate passage of the bill.