MANILA - Who do you want to die?
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday took a swipe at critics of the death penalty, and asked whether the lives of criminals are worth saving more than those of innocent Filipinos.
In a media briefing in Malacañang, the President said saving the life of a criminal is like risking the lives of innocent people.
“We are so busy protecting criminals we never had any even a moment to ponder or pray for the souls of the innocents who are victims of crime,” he said.
Duterte said, although there is a belief that the death penalty should not be imposed so that criminals will have a chance to change, the concept of retribution must apply and that “the law must apply to all.”
“What’s the purpose of criminal law? It’s retribution. Magbayad ka sa utang mo sa society (Pay your dues),” he said.
The President said “heinous crimes are everywhere today,” and that the prayer is for the death penalty to serve as a deterrent.
Duterte cited a Bureau of Corrections report which says the crime rate rose when the death penalty was abolished.
He said, in 2006, the number of inmates convicted of heinous crimes rose to 6,204 from 189 after the death penalty was abolished.
He gave Filipinos a choice on who they would choose to die: innocent ones or criminals.
“Sino ang gusto mo mamatay, ang inosente o yung mga criminal na may atraso na? Mamili ka, sino ang gusto mo makita mamatay? Anak mo na galing sa eskwelehan maholdap, masaksak o yung mga criminal na andiyan?” he said.
(Who do you want to die, the innocent one or the criminals who have committed misdeeds? Choose who you want to die, your child who goes home from school and gets robbed and stabbed or the criminals there?)
He also told critics of the death penalty not to make life the “pinnacle” of their virtues.
“Life is sacred but do not make it as a pinnacle of your virtues,” he said.
Death penalty in the country was abolished under the 1987 Constitution--the first Asian country to do so--but was reinstated under President Fidel V. Ramos in 1993 in response to increasing crime rates.
It was again abolished under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006, reducing the harshest penalties to life imprisonment.
Even before being elected in the 2016 polls, Duterte had been pushing for the revival of death penalty, saying it would serve as retribution for those who committed heinous crimes.
Last week, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill reimposing the death penalty for drug-related offenses, in a bid to bolster the Duterte administration's anti-narcotics drive.