Death penalty bill is divisive

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    They call themselves pro-life, a label that is discriminatory because it leads one to ask, what about those who do not call themselves “pro-life”? Will this mean that they are pro-death?’

    JUST as the nation and its leaders are most in need of unity and cooperation in order to effectively fight the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, comes this issue that will potentially drive a wedge among our people.

    We refer to the revival by President Duterte of the need for a death penalty legislation, which is one of the main points he tackled in his recent State of the Nation Address. Duterte wanted the lawmakers to impose the death penalty in heinous crimes involving illegal drugs, rape, murder, and others. One of his supporters in the House of Representatives wanted to impose death by lethal injection on officials who commit the highest levels of plunder.

    To recall, the bill that seeks to include again in our judicial processes the ultimate punishment had been passed by the House of Representatives during the last 17th Congress but was killed in the Senate.

    While Duterte’s incessant touting of the necessity of death by lethal injection in his continuing war against drugs is supported by policemen in the Senate such as Panfilo Lacson and Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the matter of the death penalty is anathema to many other senators. There’s the word again — anathema is a curse hurled by the Pope or a council of the Catholic church, excommunicating a person or denouncing a doctrine. Senators such as Manny Pacquiao and Vicente Sotto III are either too religious to think about the state killing a criminal, or too defensive of their future political ambitions that they would not want to antagonize the Church. And it is our luck — good or bad — that the Senate now is populated with “religious” members.

    Meanwhile, at the House of Representatives, “pastors” like Benny Abante (Pro-ABS) and Joselito Atienza (Pro-Life) are all out against the death penalty. It is their personal conviction, not the stand of Manilans whom they represent. Their position is not made on scientific or cultural considerations but for reasons of faith. They call themselves pro-life, a label that is discriminatory because it leads one to ask, what about those who do not call themselves “pro-life”?  Will this mean that they are pro-death? It has the same effect as calling one’s “barkada” (gang) as “makabayan” (nationalist or patriotic), to the exclusion of the others not so named.

    Atienza’s suggestion that the next administration should tackle the issue of death penalty, however, is valid. He said: “The government should concentrate on saving lives and quelling the coronavirus pandemic now and allow the next administration to worry about the proposal to bring back the death penalty.”

    In practical terms, he said, the pursuit of death penalty is an “exercise in futility” given the current circumstances.

    He said Congress realistically lacks the time to work on the death penalty. Second, in less than 22 months, we will be electing a new president and a new Congress, so we might as well let the next administration worry about the highly divisive proposal.

    The last time Congress passed a law reimposing capital punishment was in 1993. The first death verdict was not carried out until 1999, or until six years later, due to legal challenges and mandatory reviews, Atienza pointed out.

    The Pro-Lifer has a good point there, at least.

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