Senate Abolishes Death Penalty
The Philippine Senate on Tuesday moved for the abolition of death penalty. Sixteen senators voted for the abolition and one abstained, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada because he is facing plunder charges along with his father, deposed leader Joseph Estrada. Plunder is punishable by death under existing laws. Those who were unable to vote because they were absent were Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Manuel Villar, Lito Lapid, Sergio Osmena III and Ramon Magsaysay Jr. who is out of the country.
The abolition of the death penalty was certified urgent by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Senator Joker P. Arroyo lauded the passage of the bill and said that death penalty is not deterrent to crimes."Our standing will be improved internationally," he said in an interview.
Even the proponents of death penalty such as Senators Panfilo Lacson and Alfredo Lim voted to scrap the measure. However, they did not explain their votes.
There is no counterpart bill yet in the House of Representatives abolishing the capital punishment.
Arroyo explained that convicts in the death row will be commuted to reclusion perpetua but they can still get the President's pardon.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said that the Death Penalty Law has no place in a Christian nation like as the Philippines.
Senator Sergio Osmena III stressed that the Death Penalty Law proved that it was not a successful deterrent against heinous crimes.
Earlier, in a co-sponsorship speech on the abolition of the death penalty, Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, declared that he supports "the abolition of the death penalty at the present time," but does so rather" haltingly and hesitatingly" and voted "to abolish the death penalty albeit temporarily."
Gordon stated that he is doing so "not just to be merciful but to be just." He said that before imposing the death penalty, the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt must be absolutely established first through exact forensic methods, like DNA testing.
"It is so easy to kill a person to bring him to justice, but the lifetime suffering of a nation when it finds out that it has made a mistake is indelible," he added.
Being a victim of grievous crimes himself when his father was assassinated, and his niece was brutally killed by a houseboy, Gordon said that justice must also be given to those who are victimized by the perpetrators of crimes, but we must be sure that these are the same people who perpetrated these offenses.
"I fear for those victims who may think that when the perpetrators of these crimes are captured, they might escape retributive justice. However, I would rather make sure that we indeed punish the guilty ones, rather than have them killed and find out that we have made a mistake later on," Gordon said.
In its interpellation in the Senate, Arroyo said that since the death capital punishment was restored, then presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos and incumbent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, did not carry out the death penalty. Only then president Joseph Estrada there is no leader in the country from past president Corazon Aquino to incumbent President Arroyo that implemented the Death Penalty Law in all convicts in the death row. There was only one case on the time of Estrada that punished a rapist to death.