Incoming DSWD chief opposes death penalty, extra-judicial killings

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 11 2016 04:52 AM

Incoming Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo on Friday reaffirmed her stance against the death penalty and extrajudicial killings despite her inclusion in the Cabinet of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.

Taguiwalo, who was endorsed by the National Democratic Front (NDF) to Duterte, underscored instead the importance of due process when solving criminality.

"In general, I’m against extrajudicial killings. I think that’s part of what we have fought for during the martial law resistance. Extra-judicial killings are not acceptable because it can happen to anyone," she said on ANC's Headstart on Friday.

The University of the Philippines professor said there are set processes of "proving who are the guilty ones," prosecuting them, and giving them a just sentence.

The Duterte administration, she added, will uphold this due process, as clarified by incoming Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre himself.

Personally, however, she is against death penalty, even though Duterte himself has announced a liking for hanging as his preferred method of execution.

Taguiwalo said she is still in the process of understanding the Duterte style of policy-making.

"I am still in the process of knowing more about what his policies are in terms of addressing criminality, addressing drug problems, addressing corruption," she said.

But still, she retains her stance against death penalty.

"Death penalty under this condition of massive poverty, of unequal distribution of wealth, would read down to victimization of many poor, innocent people while the rich, the people with connections will be able to escape that kind of sentencing," she said.

PROTECTING CHILDREN

Duterte is also advocating curfew for minors, which is being implemented by local governments that have such ordinances.

Taguiwalo reminded authorities, however, that social work entails upholding the "dignity of all persons, the young or the old alike."

And if arrests have to be made, "make sure that the kids are handled with dignity; not punitive, not violent. And [ensure] that the parents are also involved."

She vowed to review government programs and rules for juvenile delinquents.

"I would like to look at what are the programs. Are there holding areas for these children? Or are they put together with the suspected criminals. Those are the things I haven’t looked into," she said.

Another hot topic that may be discussed in the Duterte administration is the lowering of criminal age from 15 to 12.

Taguiwalo noted that the current age was raised 15 from the earlier prescribed age of 9 because of an international covenant signed by the Philippines.

"In principle," she emphasized, "children should be treated not as adults; they are treated as children."

But the problem of today, she said, is syndicates using children for criminal acts.

"How do we address that problem? Do we address that by lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12? Or it should be addressed in how these syndicates is taking advantage of children can be prevented from doing so?" said Taguiwalo.

She said she will talk with Duterte and Aguirre on what their action will be, but "definitely, in terms of syndicate, criminal syndicates using children for criminal actions, that should be stopped."