• Wrong move, Mr. Speaker!


    Tita C. Valderama

    REMOVING plunder from the list of heinous crimes to be covered by the proposed restoration of the death penalty has added spice to the already divisive proposed bill pending in Congress.

    Congressmen, led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, should realize that they are in power to serve the people, and not to save and exempt themselves from accountabilities and liabilities. They were elected to legislate laws that will serve the interest of the majority, not their own.

    If some of our lawmakers believe that persons found guilty of rape, arson, car theft, murder, and drug-related offenses must be sent to the death chambers, why can’t plunder be considered in the same league?

    Are they taking plunder out of the list of heinous crimes covered by the death penalty because most of those committing the offense are in their ranks, or are their patrons or allies?

    What will they come out with next, an amendment to the plunder law that raises the covered amount to P100 million, or P1 billion?

    One who commits plunder rapes the government coffers, resulting in higher costs or lower standards of projects, or both. For every million-peso that goes into a public official’s pocket, how many hungry mouths it could have fed, how many children could have been deprived of scholarships, or classrooms that could have been built?

    In a 2001 study conducted by the World Bank, it was estimated that from 1995-2000, a total of P 609 billion pesos was lost to corruption. Some 20 percent of the total budget is also wasted to corruption.

    In the current budget of P3.35 trillion, 20 percent is P670 billion. Whew!

    Plunder is big-time corruption. Under Republic Act 7080, plunder is penalized with life imprisonment and with perpetual absolute disqualification from holding any public office. At the time it was enacted, the death penalty was suspended. But in 1993, RA 7656 later included plunder among the heinous crimes punishable with death. RA 7656 was, however, repealed in 2006 when capital punishment was abolished.

    Representative Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro, chairman of the committee on justice and one of the chief proponents of the bill reviving the death penalty, said that a majority of his colleagues wanted plunder to be removed from the list of crimes punishable by death because they consider it a “very lame” crime that involves money, not life.

    Umali’s exact words were: “This is just a money matter, anyway, as they say, too lame for others to include it.”

    I’d say that was a very lame excuse. It gives us reason to distrust and disrespect politicians more.

    The proposed legislation identifies 21 major offenses to be punished with death through lethal injection, firing squad, or hanging. The crimes include plunder, treason, qualified piracy, murder, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and drug-related offenses.

    Apart from plunder, other crimes would be removed from the list in a bid to make it easier to have it approved in plenary. The House of Representatives began plenary debates last week on the issue, and it appears that the leadership would force a vote on it before the chamber goes into recess for Holy Week next month.

    Alvarez had threatened to remove Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Pampanga as deputy speaker because of her stand against the death penalty. It was during Arroyo’s presidency that the death penalty was abolished. Arroyo faced plunder charges after her presidency, but the case was dismissed on technicalities last year.

    Joseph Estrada, now a second-term mayor of Manila, was convicted of plunder in 2007 but Arroyo granted him pardon and he was out of jail less than a week after conviction.

    Right now, former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla are in jail while on trial for plunder involving misuse of millions of pesos in pork barrel funds. Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile is also on trial for plunder but he is out of jail, courtesy of the Supreme Court that found him too old and sickly to be kept in detention.

    Many more of our public officials may have committed or are committing plunder but they manage to get away with it because of our flawed legal and justice system. These plunderers pocket hard-earned taxpayers’ monies and deprive our citizens of even the most basic services that could have made life a bit more comfortable.

    You may not see blood oozing from victims of plunder, but the monies stolen are from the blood and sweat of taxpayers.

    The death penalty may even be more acceptable to the public if it were to be restored only for plunder, but please don’t take plunder off the list of heinous crimes punishable with death, if you are restoring the death sentence.

    It’s a wrong move, Mr. Speaker! Don’t pursue it, please!


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    1. And this is the reason why it is useless to have the death penalty because even if we don’t include plunder in the list, high ranking government officials, top military men, the oligarchy who are actually behind drug trafficking and distribution won’t get the death penalty. They will be protected just like it is so obvious that politicians protect each other and their vested interests. I am afraid that MDS was right that federalism is okay only if the political dynasties are eradicated. Otherwrise, each state will be rules by a political clan who are actually warlords/druglords themselves.

    2. if they remove plunder from death sentence it will only means that they are still active in corruption. those thieves from the congress and senate should be in priority list to be executed once death penalty approved.

    3. vagoneto rieles on

      Plunder is not a victimless crime. A rapist victimizes one woman. A plunderer victimizes all 104million Filipinos..man,woman and child. Could Congress be in competition with the PNP for the title of ‘MAFIA’ of the Philippines?

    4. aladin g. villacorte on

      What will our honorable lawmakers think of next, she asked? Well, off the cuff, they might consider burial at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani part of their privileges as so-called public servants. That’s looking after themselves here and the hereafter.

    5. Graft and corruption is one of the big problems we face. Th death penalty for plunderers is warranted.

    6. Self preservation, and protection on the part of the politicians/lawmaker, why will you remove a good law, it is already a law, but still, you people are trying to get away with it. corrupt politicians know how to go around it. This is a good law and make it better and stronger, so that the punishment can be implemented right away. This is an anti-corruption deterrent, Corruption is the biggest problem we have in the government..Mr. Pantaleon Alvarez, please use your common sense.

    7. Plunder is big-time corruption. Under Republic Act 7080, plunder is penalized with life imprisonment and with perpetual absolute disqualification from holding any public office.

      Does not matter what the law says if the lawmakers are protecting each other.

      Fore example the pork barrel scam.

      20 senators on the Napoles list
      40 past and present senators on the COA list
      100 house of reps members on the Napolis list

      Only 3 opposition senators charged and arrested.

      Aquino, De Lima and the Ombudsman protected and are still protecting the thieving congress.
      Congress stole billions and none of the justice departments are charging them.

    8. well said & i 100% agree with you. These politicians do look after themselves. They also have the bank secrecy law which makes it so much tougher finding their stolen money. If bank secrecy was so important then why doesnt it apply to a normal peso account that most people have. These politicians do look after themselves as you said with arroyo freeing estrada. i would also jail the politicians like arroyo who free or pardon ex politicians & then allow them back into politics. Its them & us, thats how they want it. Hold them accountable, & look at arroyo has she been abroad to get her nect sorted as before she was detained it was so important to get abroad for life saving treatment, she was fleeing the country as she knew what she had done.