People’s support for restoration of death penalty is weak and shallow, a pro-life lawmaker said on Monday.
“Offhand, many Filipinos who appear to favor the revival of capital punishment are merely venting their exasperation over the miserable performance of our criminal justice system,” Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list group noted.
“Filipinos hunger and thirst for justice, not for blood. And this craving for justice may be satisfied only by profound and comprehensive reforms in law enforcement, prosecution service, the judiciary and our prisons,” according to Atienza, also House senior deputy minority leader.
He was responding to results of an online poll on the House of Representatives’ official website, which showed that 50 percent of participants favored the renewal of the death penalty, while 48 percent rejected the extreme punishment, with two percent undecided.
The ratings imply that the reinstatement of the death penalty “is a highly discordant matter that is best deferred by Congress,” Atienza, a former three-term city mayor of Manila, said.
The lawmaker blamed “widespread corruption” for the dismal functioning of the justice system that he said has “deeply frustrated and angered” many Filipinos.
“Many citizens still do not report crime victimizations simply because they do not have confidence in our justice system. And the primary reason for this lack of public trust is corruption, which we have to eradicate first,” Atienza said.
“In fact, many homeowners in middle-class subdivisions are extremely wary of opening their doors to Oplan: Tokhang precisely because they’re scared that corrupt officers might put in false drug evidence,” he added, referring to the operation plan implemented by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in connection with the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs.
The PNP has acknowledged that double-dealing officers have been reselling back into the market some of the illegal drugs seized in the course of police operations under Oplan: Tokhang.
London-based Amnesty International and New York-based Human Rights Watch have repeatedly warned that the Philippine police still engage in unlawful methods and corrupt practices, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, intimidation and the use of planted evidence.
In March this year, a Pampanga trial court handed down a historic ruling in which a police officer was convicted of torturing a bus driver falsely accused of a drug offense and other felonies in a case of mistaken identity.
Police officer Jerick Dee Jimenez was sentenced to a maximum of two years and one month in prison, and ordered to pay P100,000 in damages to his torture victim, Jerryme Corre.
It was the first-ever conviction under the country’s 2009 Anti-Torture Act.
Atienza said rotten police officers who resort to torture target only “impoverished people” who could not ably protect themselves.
“Many police officers still use torture to extract confessions because they either lack basic criminal investigation skills, or they’ve been paid by somebody to pin a crime on another person,” he added.
According to Atienza, “We have to advance our scientific methods in criminal investigation, if we are to put more criminals behind bars and discourage the use of fabricated evidence. We have to develop forensic specialization.”