Why the flip-flop on death penalty?

AN UNUSUAL “change of heart within 48 hours” among congressmen permeated the deliberation on House Bill 8909 re-imposing death penalty on illegal drug possessors. The House of Representatives approved the bill on third reading on Feb. 4, 2019 only to invalidate or withdraw it on Feb. 6.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) was the head of the five authors of the bill consolidating earlier bills aimed at amending Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The flip-flop mirrored the inconsistency of Arroyo, a devout Catholic, during whose term as President the death penalty was abolished in 2006.

Fast forward to 2017: The House under then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez relieved her as deputy speaker when she voted against Alvarez’s bill re-imposing the capital punishment that year.

Obviously to please Alvarez and President Rodrigo Duterte, on the other hand, the “born-again” Sen. Manny Pacquiao defended the proposed re-imposition because “God has authorized governments to use capital punishment,” citing the death penalty imposed on Jesus Christ by Governor Pontius Pilate.

Pacquiao must have forgotten the “righteous” decision of another sovereign government that led to the execution of Dr. Jose Rizal by firing squad on Dec. 30, 1898.

In a desperate attempt to endear his martial law regime to the people, President Marcos approved the execution by firing squad of drug trafficker Lim Seng, whose death in December 1972 was also broadcast live on radio and national television. Alas, that drastic “solution” did not stop the illegal drug trade.

Going back to the sudden withdrawal of House Bill 8909, was it because of the congressmen’s realization that some people close to the President might one day be incriminated?

It can also be inferred that GMA and cohorts got apprehensive it could affect the candidacy of re-electionist solons.

One recalls that when Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto ran for re-election in 2016, he opted to remain silent on his pending Senate Bill 2080 pushing for the revival of death penalty by lethal injection in answer to the “influx of heinous crimes all over the country.”

Ironically, Sotto had tried to stop the passage of what was then the Reproductive Health Bill because, being a Roman Catholic, he was “pro-life.”

When a newspaper reporter asked him to comment on his apparent inconsistency, he gave a quick, obviously rehearsed quip: “I am pro-life for the unborn and the Filipino family. I am pro-death to heinous criminals.”

Fortunately for one of Sotto’s friends, former President Joseph Estrada, death penalty had been abolished by the GMA presidency by the time he was convicted of plunder in 2007.

Remember when, in 1997 during the era of President Fidel Ramos, Sotto himself was suspected of “protecting” a drug lord named Alfredo Tiongco, who was alleged to have financed the senator’s 1992 campaign? While he decried the charge, he admitted having befriended Tiongco.

At that time, death was the maximum penalty. But not surprisingly, the case against the wealthy Tiongco never reached the Court.

Nevertheless, the Tiongco fiasco scuttled Sotto’s plan to run for president in 1998.

Woe unto the poor. Good luck to the rich accused, as well as corrupt prosecutors and judges who would jack up the amount of bribe money that would appease them in exchange for a resolution or decision of acquittal.

Almost one year ago (March 2018), the Department of Justice cleared alleged drug lord Peter Lim (kumpare of you-know-who) and 21 others due to “lack of evidence”.

If death penalty were a deterrent, then why does it not work in China where the biggest drug syndicates lurk? (hvego31@gmail.com/PN)


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