HOUSE Deputy Minority Leader Harry Roque on Thursday described as “plain and simple cowardice” the Super Majority coalition’s move to pass the death penalty bill through a voice vote or “viva voce.”

“They do not want their votes to be known by their constituents and they do not want their votes recorded in history. It’s plain and simple cowardice,” the Kabayan party-list congressman said in a text message.

“Definitely, it is not a resounding victory. Many of them are bothered by their conscience,” said Roque.

On Wednesday, motions made by anti-death penalty lawmakers for nominal voting were repeatedly denied by Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu of Batangas and House Deputy Majority Leader Juan Bondoc of Pampanga.

Without nominal voting, there was no record of who were the lawmakers for and against the death penalty during the vote for second reading approval on Wednesday.

The House passed a bill that imposes capital punishment only on manufacturers and traders of illegal drugs.

Rep. Teodoro Baguilat of the Liberal Party said the viva voce vote showed that administration lawmakers were afraid of losing their committee chairmanships if they voted against the death penalty.

“It goes both ways. Those who will eventually vote against death penalty are hesitant to show their true colors to a vengeful majority leadership. Likewise, the cowed majority members who are voting for death penalty are ashamed of going against their conscience and belief system so they’d rather hide behind the viva voce mode,” Baguilat said.

House rules however state that nominal voting is required for third reading approval.

Suffrage and electoral reforms panel chairman Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list said those for or against the bill would be known on March 8 when the bill goes through a vote on third reading.

“This is where each and every member will be accountable and show their vote for the death penalty bill,” Tugna said.

Reacting to the House vote, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, a former Camarines Sur congresswoman, asked: Why impose death penalty when it doesn’t stop crime?

“There is no empirical data showing that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. Death penalty did not reduce crime incidents. Since death penalty does not improve the situation, then why do we still have to implement it?” Robredo said in an interview after the turnover of fishing boats in Maribojoc, Bohol as part of her office’s “Angat Buhay” program.

Limiting the death penalty to drug traffickers and manufacturers doesn’t make the measure acceptable, she said.
Published in News
Thursday, 23 February 2017 13:23

"Thou Shall Not Die"

Davao- Yesterday, the Ateneo de Davao University hosted a forum on Death Penalty in the Philippines in collaboration with APILA, Law School, Amnesty International-Philippines, SAMAPULA, and SS-SEC at the Finster Auditorium of Ateneo de Davao University. The forum was participated by representatives from different organizations, sectors, and the university faculty and students.

With its theme, “Thou Shall Not Die”, the forum was opened by Atty. Romeo T. Cabarde, Jr. through reiterating the values of the university as a Jesuit and Catholic school. He said that there may be conflicting ideas between the values held by the university and that of the present administration but this essentially opens up for constructive discussions and informed presentation of ideas.

The forum was headed by the first speaker and followed up by three reactors coming from different organizations and sectors.

The main presenter, Atty. Ray Paolo D. Santiago of the Ateneo Human Rights Center of Ateneo de Manila University, presented the following propositions against the re-imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines: first,the move to re-impose the bill is unconstitutional; second, it violates the international law; third, Death Penalty does not deter criminality; fourth, Death Penalty is subject to judicial power, and lastly, it targets those who live below the poverty line. Atty. Santigao showed compelling recent statistics to substantiate the following propositions.

Atty. Arnold C. Abejaron from the legal sector was the first reactor. He said that the re-imposition of the Death Penalty will eventually carry economic repercussions not just legal once because of the binding agreement we had with other countries through signed international treaties. Basically, the congress cannot pass the law without violating the international commitment.

“Can you restore the life of the victim by killing the criminal?” said Fr. Orlando A. Angela, a Theologian, presented the church’s take on the re-imposition of the Death Penalty which according to him is morally wrong in virtue of the sanctity of life and will only inspire vengeance among the victims’ families.

The last reactor was Mister Rey Andrew Villafuerte from the Amnesty International-Philippines. According to Mister Villafuerte, the greatest danger posited by the re-imposition of the bill is that it can be subject to erroneous interpretations and vulnerable to discrimination. Ultimately, the Death Penalty is a denial of the criminal’s right to rehabilitation and restorative justice.
Published in News
A lawmaker on Monday claimed the ruling coalition has mustered enough votes to pass the death penalty bill in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Stephen Paduano of Abang Lingkod party-list made the statement ahead of the caucus of administration lawmakers in connection with the plenary debates on the death penalty measure.

“The ‘yes’ vote [for death penalty]in the House has now the [majority]number. I’m a member of the Visayan bloc. Last week we had a meeting. Out of 41 congressmen out of the Visayas bloc that’s headed by Congressman Benitez, only six of us will vote ‘no,’” Paduano told reporters.

He was referring to Rep. Alfredo Benitez of Negros Occidental.

“For the party-list coalition [of which I am also a member], more than half of the 40 of us will vote ‘yes,’” Paduano added.

The Super Majority bloc in the House of Representatives is composed of the ruling PDP-Laban, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Nacionalista Party, National Unity Party, Liberal Party, Lakas-CMD and the party-list coalition.

Paduano, however, won’t vote for death penalty even if he belongs to the Super Majority.

“I believe everyone deserves a second chance. That is my faith and that is my religious belief. I believe congressmen should vote based on their conscience in this issue,” Paduano said.

Buhay party-list Rep. Jose Atienza, who opposes the bill, said the House should not be a stamp pad of the administration and should not blindly follow the orders of the President.

In a forum in Manila, he said the bill would only benefit the well-off as the justice system is stacked against the poor.

“As long as the criminal justice system is corrupt, we will not be able to fight effectively, criminality with death penalty,” he said.

Death for plunder, treason, drugs

The proposed death penalty bill will be amended to spare convicts of drug possession from execution, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte said Monday.

Fariñas made the announcement after the caucus of administration lawmakers.

Crimes punishable by death penalty will include plunder, treason, and drug-related offenses except drug possession.

“Upon our agreement, we will introduce an amendatory bill. We removed [drug]possession,” Fariñas told reporters.

Under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, a drug possession offense is punishable by life imprisonment to death when a person carries: 10 grams or more of opium; 10 grams or more of morphine; 10 grams or more of heroin; 10 grams or more of cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride; 50 grams or more of methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu”; 10 grams or more of marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil; 500 grams or more of marijuana; 10 grams or more of other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDA) or “ecstasy”, paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), trimethoxyamphetamine (TMA), lysergic acid diethylamine (LSD), gamma hydroxyamphetamine (GHB), and those similarly designed or newly introduced drugs and their derivatives..

If a person carries illegal drugs less than the threshold, the punishment is reduced to life imprisonment.

The death penalty bill was abolished in 2006 during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This meant that the harshest punishment for drug possession offenses, regardless of the amount of drugs in possession of, is lifetime imprisonment.

Explaining the limited scope of the bill, Fariñas said: “The compelling reasons are present in these crimes. We should send a message to our people that giving aid and comfort to the enemy (treason) is a heinous crime which would merit death penalty, depending on the circumstances.”

“We also maintained that plunder is covered [in the bill],” Fariñas added.

However, he did not specify the threshold on when drug possession would be upgraded to a drug trafficking offense.
Published in News
Last of 2 Parts

IT will be so tragic if President Duterte gets Congress to reinstate the death penalty. The surge of heinous crimes in the country is not because of the lifting of capital punishment in 2006, but because of the incompetence of immediate past President Benigno Aquino 3rd, whose forces continue to plot against his government.

Senate Bill 42, introduced by former police chief Senator Panfilo Lacson, reveals its gross ignorance: “The alarming surge of heinous crimes in recent years has shown that reclusion perpetua (which replaced execution in a 2006 law) is not a deterrent to grave offenders.”

But what “recent years”’ is Lacson talking about? This logically are the past six years, from 2010 to 2015, when the Philippine National Police was under Aquino’s bosom buddy, Alan Purisima. And it was during these years that there was a near total breakdown of peace and order, with Duterte himself repeatedly saying that we practically had a narco state during these years.

Crime statistics prove this point, and debunk the very wrong claim that the lifting of the death penalty in 2006, the index crime rate even went down from 47.5 that year to 42 in 2007 and 41 in 2008. This completely debunks Senator Lacson’s thesis that the absence of capital punishment encouraged criminals to murder and rape more.

There was a surge in reports of index crimes in 2009, but this was mainly due to a change in the Philippine National Police’s reporting system which expanded what police precincts should report as crimes in their jurisdiction. The PNP also clamped down on many precinct commanders’ penchant to under-report crime incidences to make it appear that they were excellent law enforcers in their territory.

Rocketed up

As a result, the number of index crimes reported rocketed up from just 36,057 in 2008 to 301,703 in 2009 and 204,979 in 2010, probably as police precinct commanders thought it was safer to err on the side of more crimes, not less.

The reporting system, however, seemed to have normalized in the first years of the Aquino regime, registering 218, 160, and 135 index crimes per 100,000 people in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively.

However, the index crime rates surged in 2013 and 2014, to 466 and 493, respectively. Those huge numbers practically indicate a crime wave: from just 129,161 index crimes in 2012,the number more than doubled to 458,000 in 2013 and 492,000 in 2014.

Death penalty has got nothing to do with it. PHILIPPINE STATISTICS AUTHORITY

This can only be explained by the breakdown of peace and order in the country, as the PNP under Purisima and Aquino lost control of the police, which likely were demoralized by the incompetence of the two. Aquino and his sidekick, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who was officially in charge of the PNP, were also unconcerned about the surge in crime.

The illegal-drug problem had also proliferated, reflected in the data that homicides — committed often by drugged addicts — more than doubled, from 3,000 in 2012 to 6,500 in 2013, while incidences of physical injury zoomed from just 35,000 in 2012 to 223,000 in 2013.

The data is indisputable. The surge in heinous crimes was not because of the lifting of the death penalty in 2006, but because we had such an inutile President, incapable of addressing the country’s perennial crime problem.

This of course is not something unique to the Philippines. A comprehensive study in 2013 (“Relationship between police efficiency and crime rate: a worldwide approach,” European Journal of Law and Economics) evaluated the relationship between crime rates in a number of countries from 1998 to 2006.

Police efficiency

Its firm conclusion: It is police efficiency rather than such factors as population density, GDP per capita, or unemployment rate, that mainly determines crime rates in particular territories.

The well-known case here is of course New York City in the 1990s where Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s get-tough approach to crime, as well as other major policy changes (including such simple moves as immediately erasing graffiti on walls and trains), very dramatically brought down the metropolis’ crime rate, with violent crime declining more than 56 percent.

Before Congress pushes to restore the death penalty, which would be a step backward in our march towards becoming a civilized society and would put us in the club of such countries as North Korea, Yemen, and Iraq, it should let Duterte do his work first in addressing the crime problem.

Capital punishment is also so against the poor who can’t afford lawyers: After the four rich brats sentenced to death for the rape of Maggie de la Riva in 1967 (three were executed, one died in prison from drug overdose), I am not aware of any rich Filipino meted the death penalty, and actually killed.

There just isn’t any proof that capital punishment deters crime. Why rush in restoring it? It will be so sad if the Senate passes a law not based on facts, but motivated by emotion or the calculation that this would appeal to voters. We’re aghast, and sick and tired of extra-judicial killings. Now you want judicial killings?

After all, we all agree that Duterte is so totally different from his wimpy and lazy predecessor, and he can lick crime in our unlucky country.
Published in Commentaries
MANILA, Philippines - Plunder is back in the list of offenses punishable by death, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said yesterday.

The decision came after House leaders were apprised of possible irregularities in a casino contract between the government and a private group, during a hearing by the committee on good government.

“This contract is highly disadvantageous to the government. The amount involved is P234 million in taxpayers’ money. That is plunder. In view of that, we will retain plunder in the death penalty bill,” Alvarez said.

He was referring to the November 2014 contract entered into by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) with Vanderwood Management Corp. for the opening of a casino at a hotel the latter is building at the old Army and Navy Club complex near Rizal Park in Manila. The city government, which owns the property, leased it to Oceanville Hotel and Spa Corp. for P300,000 a month.

Oceanville subleased it to Vanderwood, which in turn leased it to Pagcor for P13 million a month.

Alvarez directed the good government committee to recommend the filing of a plunder case with the Office of the Ombudsman against former Pagcor officials and private individuals involved in the deal, led by then chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr.

He said the anomalous deal has given him and his colleagues enough reason to keep the crime of plunder in the death penalty bill.

Last Wednesday, House members agreed in caucus to delist plunder from the measure. The crime involves the stealing or misuse of at least P50 million in public funds.

Alvarez said the total amount involved in the Pagcor-Vanderwood transaction was P3.2 billion, the amount of rent the state gaming agency had committed to pay Vanderwood for 15 years.

The Speaker said Pagcor already paid Vanderwood P234 million representing advance rentals for 12 months and security deposit for six months.

“You’ve already given them P234 million even if you’ve not occupied even a single square inch of space of the leased property. Is that not highly anomalous? What you are leasing in effect is just air. Meanwhile, Vanderwood already used your P234 million,” he told Naguiat and other former Pagcor officials.

He said if current Pagcor officers honor the Vanderwood contract, they too would be liable for plunder.

Alvarez asked Vanderwood representatives if the casino-hotel they were building was already finished.

Company president Manuel Sy and the firm’s lawyer Edgar Asuncion said the 6,500-square-meter space leased by Pagcor “is 90-percent complete.”

Naguiat claimed the transaction was aboveboard and was in fact cleared by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).

Transportation Undersecretary Raoul Creencia, who was OGCC head in 2014, said though he gave his blessing to the deal, “it was Pagcor that ultimately made the decision.”

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas told Creencia that he should have checked the contract the Manila city government entered into with Oceanville.

“Under the contract, the property would be transformed into a lodging, dining and entertainment facility. There is no provision for a casino here. The city government could intervene and seek the invalidation of the deal between Oceanville and Vanderwood,” he said.

He said there was nothing in the documents that indicated Sy and a certain Mario Leabres were authorized to sign for Vanderwood and Oceanville, respectively.

Answering questions from Fariñas, Asuncion said it was he who introduced Leabres to Sy, adding the three were his friends.

But when requested to locate Leabres, who snubbed yesterday’s hearing, Asuncion declined.

Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc, author of the resolution seeking an inquiry into the Pagcor-Vanderwood deal, said the Commission on Audit has asked incumbent Pagcor officials to recover the P234 million the agency advanced to Vanderwood.

Deferment pushed

Anti-death penalty lawmakers, meanwhile, are pushing for the deferment of plenary debates on the revival of the death penalty bill while the Senate is still deliberating on the fate of the country’s treaty with an international human rights group.

Reps. Edcel Lagman and Raul Daza are urging Alvarez to hold off debates on House Bill 4727 while senators are preparing to vote on whether to uphold Manila’s commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Second Optional Protocol.

“This is a bicameral legislature. No one acts solely without the consent of the other. We must suspend all proceedings in the House and avoid a clash. Otherwise, we will only be engaged in an exercise in futility,” Lagman of Albay pointed out.

Daza, who represents northern Samar, agrees. “I urge the House leadership to pause and rethink about the debates in the plenary, because all the time, energy and resources by the House on this bill will be laid to waste.”

Fourteen senators have signed a resolution expressing the sense that any treaty or international agreement should not be valid without Senate concurrence.
Published in News
Duterte given patently false data

First of 2 Parts

PRESIDENT Duterte last week argued for the return of the death penalty by referring to the purported statistics reported by the Bureau of Corrections head Benjamin de los Santos in his recent testimony to the Senate.

The bureaucrat testified: “BuCor statistics show that before the abolition of the death penalty we had 189 inmates convicted for the commission of heinous crimes. After such abolition, a staggering 6,024 were sentenced for heinous crimes, an astonishing 3,280 percent increase.”

That’s a total lie, a patent fabrication: The Senate must cite the BuCor official for perjury, and for attempting to fool it to pass a law re-imposing the death penalty by presenting false information.

There is no such data: Neither the BuCor nor its mother agency, the justice department, has collated information on convictions on heinous crimes.

The only BuCor data that could approximate the number of “inmates convicted for heinous crimes” are the number of its yearly admissions of convicts. The number of those convicted of heinous crimes—such as murder, rape, and kidnapping— may be estimated based on its data that 48 percent of convicts in its prisons are “maximum security” inmates.

(To clarify, the BuCor under the justice department is charged with supervising six national prisons, including the biggest, the national penitentiary at the New Bilibid Prison, with its inmates consisting of those already convicted and with sentences of more than three years. On the other hand, the inmates in the jails of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, which is under the Philippine National Police, are those still on trial and with convictions of less than three years.)

As the data below show, after the June 2006 ban of the death penalty, there was very minimal increase in the number of those convicted for murders and rapes, the two most frequent crimes punishable by death, with very little deviation from the yearly average of 2,558 incidences.

The slight increases are due of course to the increases in our country’s population, which grew from 87 million in 2006 to 101 million in 2015. Indeed, for both 2016 when there was no death penalty, and 2005 when there was, the heinous crime rate per 100,000 population, was the same, at 2.8.

The data therefore indisputably shows that the abolition of the death penalty had not encouraged more heinous crimes, contrary to the claims of the BuCor official and proponents of the death penalty.

The Philippine data isn’t at all surprising: rigorous, scientific studies show that the death penalty has no impact on the incidence of heinous crimes. Two studies in the United States that claimed to prove that the abolition of the death penalty increased murder rates in certain US states, were later proven to be “fundamentally flawed” by that country’s National Research Council.

In fact, murder rates from 1900 to 2010 in American states in which there is no death penalty were even lower than in states with capital punishment. A 2009 survey of criminologists showed that over 88 percent believed that the death penalty was not a deterrent to murder.

The issue is really so commonsensical. As Amnesty International has pointed out: “The threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, those who are in the grip of fear or rage, those who are panicking while committing another crime (such as a robbery), or those who suffer from mental illness or mental retardation and do not fully understand the gravity of their crime.”

In essence, the death penalty has been a remnant from our civilization’s violent past, unenlightened by humanity’s higher values, mainly the recognition of the mystery and wonder of a human life, that took more than a thousand years to develop. We have only learned in the past 50 years that a human does not totally have free will, with his baser instincts capable at times of completely taking over his reason or values, even as we have to pretend we are captains of our souls.

From being a penalty imposed by all nations in the past, 140 nations have abolished it in law and in practice, and only 54 retain it in practice. Only the US (31 out of its 52 states) among the Western nations retain it, and not even “violent” Russia in practice.

It’s not a coincidence that many of the American states that do have the death penalty are those where Christians who take the Bible literally dominate.

Excluding in the discussion China and other nations whose cultures are still dominated by the primacy of the group — as in an ant colony — rather than the individual, the most important reason why there is still capital punishment in this day of enlightenment and age of reason will surprise you.


It is religion, particularly Christianity and its offshoot, Islam. Christianity and Islam have molded most of humanity’s values for at least a thousand years, and these two have always brainwashed people to believe that God himself sees vengeance as a value to be upheld, that an eye must be paid for an eye taken, a life for a life extinguished.

As late as 1952, Pope Pius XII even made the ridiculous argument that the “State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life.” Rather, he argued, “in expiation of his crime, [the criminal]has already disposed of his right to life.” Until 1969, the Vatican City’s statutes had capital punishment — for the crime of attempting to assassinate the Pope.

Pope Francis has stated that he is against the death penalty, but that it is his personal opinion and he is appealing for a consensus to end the death penalty on the ground that it is “cruel and unnecessary.” The Vatican had officially supported the 2015 United Nations campaign against the death penalty.

But believe it or not, Catholic dogma still doesn’t see anything wrong with capital punishment as a right of the state to defend itself. No wonder the support of many, if not most, Filipinos for the return of capital punishment in this unlucky, dominantly Catholic nation.

We will be the first country to re-impose the death penalty, and the second time around after the ex-general Fidel Ramos rammed a law through Congress in 1993 authorizing it. Gloria Arroyo abolished it in 2006. Duterte wants it back, after given false information.

What a country that keeps changing its mind on such a fundamental issue.

(On Friday, it was not the 2006 abolition of the death penalty that encouraged more crimes, rather it was the incompetence of the BS Aquino III regime and I will show that with facts, figures, and logic.)
Published in Commentaries
Monday, 30 January 2017 08:02

Humanism and the death penalty

In his 1950 Nobel Prize lecture, Bertrand Russell reminded us that “the main thing needed to make the world happy is intelligence.” This optimistic conclusion was derived from the belief that liberal education can foster the value and agency of each person. Liberal education looks into the sciences rather than biblical revelation in order to advance a way of understanding the world. The right thing to do, in this regard, is to introduce the human individual to secular principles that will ultimately make one’s mind truly independent.

For Cicero, humans are to be distinguished from animals through language. Speech, when linked with the power of thought, enabled citizens to dialogue with one another and live in harmony “under the rule of law.” Humanism teaches us that only an open mind trained in the arts, poetry, and philosophy can solve the problems bedeviling society. Thus, humanist education in our universities is an attempt to liberate the young from the stifling rigidity of ideology and dogma.

The Enlightenment taught that the love for humanity necessitates the love for reason. Humanism means the adherence to reason as the sole creator of virtue. Humanism, in this way, is an ideology as well as a religion. The humanist pursues one particular truth—that the human being is above all else. This is the spirit of the liberal tradition, which is also a way of looking at the world. It takes root in the nature of the individual as a free and rational being.<

Humanism, of course, is an intellectual program. Its liberal stance primarily asserts the primacy and value of human freedom. A young man in college will learn that it is through the moral good that a person secures his place in the whole scheme of things. But what is the meaning of this moral good? The ultimate moral good, it can be argued, begins with the individual’s desire to do one’s duty to society. But this human desire must emanate from an unencumbered will.

Moral education in the country is based only loosely on the humanist tradition. This is because teachers themselves, including the school environment, unmistakably carry certain values that are already embedded in our own culture. “We are what we believe we are,” says C.S. Lewis. Filipinos are a result of an irreversible historical process. Philippine society has a very different situated identity from the West.

For instance, we have never been critically minded. We do not question the lack of decency of some of our public officials. But what is more appalling is that all the violence right now unfolding before our eyes might only come as impersonal. We no longer see the victim as a human being. Indeed, we must ask: What has happened to humanist education in this country? Have we Filipinos misplaced all the values of humanity?

The current mood of the Filipino public is that it thinks any individual can be sacrificed for the sake of our brand of social solidarity. As such, as long as public interest is used to justify the death penalty for a boy as young as 12, some Filipinos might believe that no moral wrong is being committed. Most of us reason that this very young “criminal,” who has now become an enemy of the state, himself knows that what he has done can bring him instantaneous death. Yet, in so doing, we have disregarded the reality of unjust social structures that served as virulent preconditions for the anatomy of a crime.

It is unconscionable for many among us not to realize that bringing the tragic death sentence back, even to a person who is so young, only makes manifest that our society has not overcome the pangs of elitist rule, and this is because the poor will remain at the receiving end of the infirmities of our legal system. In reality, those who are in power are just taking advantage of our tragic sense of nationhood that has characterized our fate as a people.
Published in Commentaries