PUBLIC support for the Duterte administration’s plan to revive capital punishment in the country dropped in the first quarter of 2017, though a majority of Filipinos still approve of it, according to the latest survey released by Pulse Asia on Friday.
Results of the poll, conducted from March 15 to 20, showed that 67 percent of 1,200 respondents said they agreed with the measure reimposing the death penalty on heinous crimes, down from 81 percent in July last year.
The proportion of those who opposed the death penalty rose to 25 percent in March from 11 percent in July 2016, while those undecided remained at 8 percent.
The nationwide survey had a ± 3 percent error margin at the 95 percent confidence level. Subnational estimates had a ± 6 percent error margin.
Pulse Asia noted that the largest decrease in support for capital punishment was in Balance Luzon (Luzon except Metro Manila), at 61 percent from 82 percent.
Support from citizens in Class D, or the poorer working class, also dropped to 66 percent from 82 percent.
When the pro-death penalty respondents were asked what crimes should be punished by death, 97 percent pointed to rape, statistically unchanged from the 96 percent in July 2016. It was followed by murder (88 percent) and drug pushing (71 percent).
Fewer respondents thought the death penalty should apply to those convicted of kidnap for ransom (46 percent) and plunder (33 percent).
“However, most Metro Manilans (55 percent), Visayans (59 percent), and those in Class ABC (57 percent) support the imposition of capital punishment for kidnap for ransom and plunder while a bare majority of those in Class ABC (51 percent) are in favor of the death penalty in plunder cases,” the Pulse Asia said.
A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted in late March showed that 61 percent of Filipinos favored the death penalty bill that seeks to reimpose capital punishment on seven drug offenses.
In March, the House of Representatives approved a bill that seeks to reimpose the death penalty only on heinous crimes related to illegal drugs, to fulfill a campaign promise by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Age of liability
Pulse Asia also said most Filipinos preferred that the minimum age of criminal liability be kept at 15 years old.
Fifty-five percent of Filipinos favored the retention of the minimum age on which criminals could be penalized as adults.
Thirteen percent of the respondents said the minimum age should be between 16 to 25 years old, 2 percent said it should be at 10 to 11 years old, while 1 percent of respondents said it should be at 13 to 14 years old.
The survey period spanned Senate hearings on the kidnap-slay of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo, killings allegedly perpetrated by the Davao Death Squad, and the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison; the suspension of the drug war; and the passage of the death penalty bill in the House.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella welcomed the survey result, which he said was “a timely reminder that a progressive nation is premised on law and order.”
“The reimposition of capital punishment is an important component in building a trustworthy government that protects its citizens and youth from crime, especially the kind perpetuated by illegal drug traffickers and violators,” Abella said in a statement.
“We are confident the bill will be passed in Congress, as a key to a crime and drug-free Philippines,” the Palace official added.
March vs death bill set
Church leaders, farmers, fishermen, indigenous people, workers, urban poor and others are set to go on a 21-day cross-country march and caravan from Cagayan de Oro City to the Senate to express their opposition to the reintroduction of the death penalty.
“We called our march-caravan Lakbay Buhay to signify our unqualified stand for the right to life,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ National Secretariat for Social Action.
“The death penalty is inhuman as it runs contrary to the principle of restorative justice and corrupts the universal value of life; it is unlawful as it violates existing international treaties the Philippines is party to; it is ineffective as deterrent to crime and drug abuse; it is unjust as it is anti-poor,” Gariguez said in a news conference.
Beth Yang of Pilipina, one of the organizers, stressed the need to “enforce a sustainable livelihood and job security instead of death penalty,”
The “core pilgrims” will pass through Cebu, Eastern Visayas, Bicol, Southern Tagalog and is expected to reach Katipunan Road by May 19.
A big interfaith prayer and Mass is being planned at Rizal Park on May 21.