MANILA – The kidnapping of a businessman and his girlfriend in Pasay City by four police officers and the discovery of a tokhang-for-ransom dungeon run by drug enforcement agents in Manila should serve as a wakeup call for Congress to once and for all abandon the revival of the death penalty. This was he call made at ghe weekend by House senior deputy minority leader and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza.
“Right now, we are already witness to the unbridled abuse of police powers by rotten officers. The problem is bound to get worse once we
have the death penalty,” Atienza warned.
He said crooked officers engaged in all sorts of criminal activities would have a heyday if capital punishment is reinstated.
“They will use the mere threat of death sentences to get whatever they want from their targets – from their victims,” Atienza, former three-term mayor of Manila, said.
“Violent crime is thriving not because of the absence of the death penalty, but because law enforcement has been overwhelmed by corruption,” Atienza said.
Instead of fighting hoodlums, Atienza said many officers are themselves wrapped up in all sorts of felonious undertakings – from drug
trafficking, extortion and protection rackets, kidnapping-for-ransom, robbery, carjacking, murder-for-hire, to illegal gambling and prostitution.
He called for “comprehensive reforms in the entire criminal justice system, from law enforcement to corrections.”
The death penalty will not address rampant crime, Atienza stressed. “On the contrary, it is guaranteed to spur more crime, particularly those perpetrated by
hooligans in uniform.”
No less than President Rodrigo Duterte had once implied that up to 40 percent of the country’s 160,000 police officers may be linked to illegal activities, recalled Atienza.
The House, voting 217-54 with a lone abstention on March 7, approved on final reading the bill which would impose death sentences on drug-related offenses.
Atienza was among those who opposed passage of the bill in the House, arguing that the extreme punishment is anti-poor and violates the sanctity of human life.
In the Senate, the committee on justice chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon has so far had only one hearing on the bill bringing back the death sentence.
Gordon suspended indefinitely the hearings at the end of the first hearing, after officials from the Executive branch admitted there could be legal questions arising from the Philippines reimposing death penalty despite being a signatory to UN treaties prohibiting the same. He asked a Justice department official if treaties are considered part of the law of the land, and the reply was in the affirmative. Which meant, Gordon pointed out, it’s not as simple as death-penalty advocates make it appear to be. He has asked the Justice department for a formal legal opinion on the implications of the death-penalty restoration on the country’s international commitments.
Gordon last week urged the Duterte administration to heed calls made by United Nations member states for the Philippines to abort plans to restore the death penalty.
The senator warned that many developed countries “”tie restrictions or cancel aid if you have the death penalty.”