Presidential bets push for judicial reform over death penalty

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2022 08:31 AM

Presidential candidates Leody De Guzman, Norberto Gonzales, Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Vice President Leni Robredo discuss issues during a forum organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on March 25, 2022. Photo courtesy: CBCP News/screengrab
Presidential candidates Leody De Guzman, Norberto Gonzales, Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Vice President Leni Robredo discuss issues during a forum organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on March 25, 2022. Photo courtesy: CBCP News/screengrab

MANILA — For presidential candidates Leody De Guzman, Norberto Gonzales, Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Vice President Leni Robredo, reforming the Philippines’ justice system trumps bringing back the death penalty.

During a forum organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Friday, De Guzman, Gonzales, and Robredo said they oppose the capital punishment.

Pacquiao, meanwhile, said that while the Bible does not prohibit the government’s use of death penalty, he cannot see it being implemented under the current judicial system.

The Catholic Church has long opposed the death penalty.

De Guzman pointed to the continued proliferation of drugs in the country despite the bloody drug war of the Duterte administration as proof that death will not solve ills.

“Patunay itong war on drugs. Ang daming pinatay, pero tuloy ang drugs. Kaya ito ‘yong klarong halimbawa ngayon na hindi deterrent ang pagpatay. Papaano mawawala ang krimen, anumang kaguluhan? Dapat simulan na natin na pakitirin ang inequality sa ating lipunan,” the labor leader said.

[Many were killed in the war on drugs, but the drug trade continues on. This is a clear example that killing is not a deterrent to crime. How do we eliminate crime and other societal ills? We have to narrow down the inequality in our society.]

Former national security adviser Gonzales said it is important to help criminals recognize their mistakes on their own.

“Mahalaga sa akin ang buhay. No to death penalty. Ang importante, kapag nagawa ng kasalanan, napapakita sa lipunan na ang kasalanan na nagawa ay mali at ‘yon ay ginagawang aral. Binibigay natin din ng pagkakataon ang mga nagkakasala na magbagong buhay, makita ang tama, maiwasan ang kamalian. Hindi na makakabalik sa lipunan ‘yong pinatay mo eh,” Gonzales said.

[I have high regard for life. No to death penalty. What’s important is when someone makes a mistake, the society makes him or her realize that what he or she did was wrong and teach that person a lesson. We give those who committed mistakes a chance to reform themselves, see what’s right, and avoid the mistake again. You can’t give another chance to those who are dead.]

Robredo cited studies showing that the certainty, and not the gravity of the punishment is more effective in addressing crime.

She added that during the period when death penalty was restored, the country did not see a reduction in crimes.

“Dapat ayusin natin ang judicial system dahil kinakailangan ang maging deterrent para ‘yong tao natatakot siya mag-commit ng crime, ay ‘yong kasiguraduhan na mapaparusahan siya,” she said.

[We have to fix our judicial system because we need the certainty of punishment to deter people from committing crimes.]

Pacquiao said without fixing the justice system, innocent people could be punished.

“Pabor ako sa death penalty, pero hindi iyan ang nararapat ngayon sa ating judicial system natin dahil talagang maraming masesentensyahan ng kamatayan nang walang kasalanan. Magkaroon muna tayo ng judicial reform, ayusin natin na talagang ang masentensyahan ang may kasalanan,” Pacquiao noted.

[I am in favor of death penalty, but because of the state of our judicial system, it is not appropriate because many innocent people will be sentenced to death. We need to have judicial reform. We need to fix the system to ensure that those guilty will be punished.]

The candidates were also asked how they would help swiftly bring justice amid backlogs in cases.

Gonzales proposed increasing the number of public attorneys and reviewing the judicial process; De Guzman cited resolving social, political, and economic justice; and Pacquiao, adding budget for courts.

Robredo, a former public lawyer, added people should also be educated of their rights under the law so they can be in the best position to defend themselves.

Only 4 out of the 10 presidential candidates attended the CBCP forum, with the others saying they were hindered by scheduling conflicts.

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