Death penalty backed, rejected

THE reimposition of death penalty is getting different reactions from the members of the House of Representatives.

Chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs and Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers expressed support for the call of President Rodrigo Duterte to revive death penalty through lethal injection.

But Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan expressed strong objection, instead pushing for immediate rehabilitation of Marawi City.

Barbers agreed with President Duterte's call for Congress to revive the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

In the 17th Congress, Barbers was one of the principal authors of the death penalty bill which was passed by the House on third reading but was not taken up by the Senate.

“Illegal drugs is a menace in society.  It destroys not only its victims but entire families, and with them, the whole nation.  Re-imposing the death penalty now on drug related offenses will surely stop the criminals on their tracks and deter them from further plying their trade, thus giving our youth the much needed breather as we put in place more measures to secure their future, free from drugs and protected from criminals,” Barbers said.

“We have the responsibility of ensuring the future of our nation in our hands.  Why are we having second thoughts about it.  All our laws are useless against these criminals.  Look at them destroying our children every day.  During the quarantine alone, look at the amount of drugs confiscated by our law enforcers.  Even COVID-19 did not deter them.  Are we to wait until our children become victims too, one way or another,” Barbers further said. 

Barbers is urging his colleagues to pass with dispatch pending bills in the Lower House re-imposing the death penalty for drug-related crimes and called on the senators to do the same, if only to save the nation from certain decay.

For her part, Sangcopan said death penalty cannot solve the problem of illegal drugs.

“In recent years, this country had seen too many deaths in its war against drugs, mostly in the hands of those who are supposed to maintain peace and give protection to citizens. This kind of ‘death penalty’ meted out by law enforcement has traumatized our communities long enough,” she lamented.

“And I believe that legalizing the death penalty will not achieve the objective of getting drugs off our streets or bringing down the crime rate in our neighborhoods. Many studies back that principle,” the lady solon added.

Sangcopan also stressed that the death penalty goes against the very essence of the Sharia or the preservation of life. Sharia is a religious law that governs Islamic traditions and day-to-day life.

Instead, Sangcopan stressed that she would rather use her voice as a Muslim legislator to actively campaign for peace and the implementation of a more humane and alternative sanctions on drug-related crimes.

Sangcopan expressed disappointment over the lack of specific developmental commitment from President Duterte on the continued rehabilitation of Marawi City in the SONA.

Sangcopan said that although the government’s plan for the rehabilitation of Marawi was laid out with a comprehensive plan and strategy for implementation, many Moro locals voiced disappointment that it was not even mentioned yesterday, or anything substantial for the Bangsamoro region.

PDEA for death penalty

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) yesterday expressed full support for President Duterte’s call for the revival of the death penalty to deter illegal drug activities with its head strongly suggesting execution by lethal injection for drug lords only and not for street-level pushers.

“The absence of capital punishment is favorable for drug peddlers who continue their nefarious activities despite being in detention,” said PDEA chair, Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva.

The PDEA chief said the absence of death penalty is being taken advantage of by moneyed and influential drug lords who continue to operate their illicit business even while serving time at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.

“We have intercepted drug transactions perpetrated by convicted high-profile inmates while inside the national penitentiaries. They have found ways to communicate with the outside world one way or the other, and give direct orders to people involved in the illegal drug trade,” Villanueva said.

However, the PDEA chair said the return of the death penalty should depend on certain quantities of confiscated narcotics. “Execution by lethal injection is for big-time drug traffickers, and not for the street-level pushers. I strongly suggest that seized drugs weighing one kilogram or more should be the threshold amount,” he said.

The PDEA head expressed belief that foreign and local drug offenders, including drug protectors and coddlers who were found guilty of manufacturing, trafficking, and pushing of dangerous drugs deserve the capital punishment.

“Tougher penalties will send a clear message and force them to have second thoughts before smuggling and trafficking illegal drugs. They have the luxury to operate in our country without worry because the maximum penalty on our laws is less harsh,” Villanueva said.

President Duterte, in his 5th State-of-the-Nation-Address on Monday reiterated his call for the swift passage of a law reinstating the death penalty by lethal injection for crimes under Republic Act 9165 otherwise known as The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.     

The Commander-in-Chief issued the call in the wake of a series of major anti-drug accomplishments by the PDEA and the Philippine National Police headed by General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa.

Since October last year, agents of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group headed by Brigadier Gen. Romeo M. Caramat Jr., with the help of the PDEA and other Police Regional Offices specifically the National Capital Region Police Office headed by Major Gen. Debold M. Sinas, the Police Regional Office 3 under Brig. Gen. Rhodel O. Sermonia and the PRO4-A headed by Brig. Gen. Vicente D. Danao Jr. have launched operations which led in the arrest of 186 ‘HVTs including 10 foreign nationals.

The PNP-DEG operations since November 2019 led in the arrest of five suspects led by two Chinese nationals and the killing of two armed suspects, one of them the son of the Chinese man arrested in Marilao, Bulacan last June 4.

“The death penalty will deter people to be involved in illegal drug trade. It should also save our future generations from the dangers posed by dangerous drugs,” the PDEA chief said.

With Jester P. Manalastas