Provincial Board: No to death penalty

“Our criminal justice system is not yet ready for the re-imposition of the death penalty.”

This was one of the reasons of Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale as she objected to the proposed resolution giving support to presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to revive the death penalty.

By a vote of 9-1, the Provincial Board yesterday thumbed down the resolution authored by PB member Arleigh Sitoy.

“I’m objecting to the resolution for two reasons: (1) I don’t think there is a reliable statistics to prove that death penalty is a deterrent to crime. (2) This resolution is anti-poor. We’ve seen most of the time how rich perpetrators just go scot-free because they could hire excellent lawyers. Our criminal justice system is not yet ready for its re-imposition,” Magpale said.

Magpale, who is known to champion the welfare of children and women, argued that rich people who are charged of a heinous crime secure their ticket to freedom by hiring excellent lawyers while poor suspects cannot.

“I do still believe in rehabilitation and based on my experience, I believe the idea still applies even on children who committed a heinous crime,” she added.

During interpellation, Sitoy said there is a need to rally behind the president elect in the  re-imposition of the death penalty, which can be used in the “elimination of wanton criminals so that peace and order for the welfare of the general public can be promoted.”

“The purpose of the re-imposition of the death penalty is not to deter crime but to eliminate those who don’t want to live in a civilized society,” Sitoy said.

He believes that those found guilty of heinous crimes “don’t deserve to exist or live in a peace-loving society.”

But Magpale disagreed with Sitoy saying that the country has not yet achieved the ideal criminal justice system. She capped her contention with a rhetorical question: How about the poor who could not afford to hire excellent lawyers?

Sitoy explained that it’s not only the poor who would be affected because plunder is also considered a heinous crime.

Still, Magpale was unconvinced. She said heinous crime is not only limited to plunder and there are some capital offenses that might involve the poor.

“We’ve seen it every time a judgment is passed on. Most of the time those who can hire good lawyers go scot-free,” Magpale said.

The vice governorthen went on to say that even in the United States where the criminal justice system is perceived to be strong, not all states adopted the death penalty.

PB member Grecilda Sanchez raised the same concern as Magpale on the country’s need to improve the criminal justice system as the reason why she’s against the resolution.

A former lawyer of the Public Attorney’s Office, PB member Joven Mondigo Jr. reminded his audience of the principle in criminal law which says that it’s better to free a guilty person than to convict an innocent one.

PB members Julian Daan and Alex Binghay both believe the resolution is still premature since Duterte might change his mind when he assumes office and Congress still needs to pass a law to implement it.

For his part, PB member Jude Thaddeus Durano-Sybico said he objected to the resolution because the call for the re-imposition of the death penalty was just a statement, not a policy. Sybico added that he is also against the curtailment of life in the same way that he opposes abortion.

Meanwhile, PB member Sun Shimura, said he is in favor of its revival but improving the criminal justice system must come first.

Last week, the PB approved Sitoy’s resolution supporting the incoming administration’s plan to impose a nationwide curfew for minors.