House members reiterated on Sunday the need to prioritize anti-COVID measures over the renewed push to pass the reimposition of death penalty in the 18th Congress.
Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles, a vice-chairman of the House Committee on Justice, said he supports the reimposition of death penalty for heinous crimes. However, he thinks that lawmakers’ energies should be directed toward the most pressing issue that the country is facing.
“Hindi naman sikreto na suportado natin ang death penalty for heinous crimes (It’s no secret that I support imposing death penalty for heinous crimes). But I think if we are going to talk about justice, pag-usapan na muna natin kung paano maiibsan ang pagkalat ng COVID-19 sa ating mga kulungan (let’s first talk about preventing the spread of COVID-19 within our prisons),” he said.
The lawyer-congressman has repeatedly called for the government to release low-risk and vulnerable persons deprived of liberty in a bid to arrest the spread of COVID-19 in the country’s highly congested jails.
The Philippines has the highest jail occupancy in the world, with a congestion rate at 534 percent.
“We can talk about reinstating death penalty after we’ve had a desirable degree of control over the ongoing health crisis. Let’s not feed the flames of indignation of our people who think that our focus lies elsewhere than helping them survive,” Nograles said.
“Sana sa ngayon, bunuin muna natin ang lakas at isip natin sa pag-ligtas ng mga buhay. Kahit ang mga preso natin, may karapatang mabuhay (For now, may we just pour our efforts and our minds in saving lives. Even our inmates have a right to live),” he stressed.
The Justice committee is the main House panel that discusses the death penalty “revival” measures, which amounts to 12 bills so far this 18th Congress.
Meanwhile, pro-life solon, Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza reckoned that Congress should forget about President Duterte’s call to bring back capital punishment.
Instead, Atienza, like Nograles, urged the administration to direct of all its attention and efforts on suppressing the coronavirus pandemic and revitalizing the national economy that collapsed by 16.5 percent in the second quarter.
“Otherwise, the deteriorating public health disaster, coupled with extreme economic difficulties, might advance into a political crisis that the administration surely does not want,” Atienza warned.
He again undescored that death penalty has never been proven to be an effective deterrent to vile criminal acts. “The best criminologists around the world have long established that executions do not serve any purpose that is not already being served by prolonged imprisonment.”
The Philippines lifted death penalty in 2006 during the time of President Gloria M. Arroyo.