“Let’s not forget our humanity” – Solon urges fellow legislators to rethink push for death penalty revival

Siquijor Representative Ramon Rocamora urged fellow members of the House of Representatives Justice Committee to rethink their stand on reviving the death penalty. He cautioned his colleagues, arguing that the death penalty will only worsen the unequal access to justice that favors the powerful and moneyed over the powerless and poor.

“We need clarity and calm in dealing with a very big issue such as this. Regardless of the gravity of the crime we wish to thwart with the imposition of the death penalty, we should remember that we will have to entrust the lives of people in the hands of an imperfect justice system,” according to Rocamora.

“I hope my fellow lawmakers will reflect on their decision. I still hold on to the belief that it is better to allow ten guilty individuals to live than to put to death an innocent one,” Rocamora added.

The revival of the death penalty is being pushed by the House leadership to combat the proliferation of drugs. However, Rocamora, who was a public prosecutor before becoming a congressman, said that in his experience, most of the drug apprehensions were products of shortened procedures.

“In my 24 years of service as a public prosecutor, 60-70% of drug related crimes that I handled were trumped up. At one time I was given an award for convicting the first drug queen in Cebu, only to find out later that the evidence I used against her were fabricated by the police. Luckily, she was eventually acquitted upon appeal because the Court recognized the poseur-buyer police officer as the same one who was involved in evidence-planting in Bohol. If the death penalty existed at that time, she would have been at risk of being executed. My conscience will not countenance that and neither would it countenance our current attempts to revive the death penalty,” Rocamora remarked.

“In my view, the better and more effective measure we can do as legislators is to strengthen our entire justice system. This will not be a quick fix solution like the death penalty is expected to be, but unlike the death penalty, better training and support for our police officers, prosecutors, and judges will guarantee an impartial and expedient justice system; assuring that we get the real culprit will also assure justice to the victim,” Rocamora stressed.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed the bill to reinstate death penalty, pursuant to President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise of returning capital punishment for heinous crimes. Alvarez’s bill sought to reimpose death penalty on heinous crimes listed under Republic Act 7659, including murder, plunder, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, sale, use and possession of illegal drugs, carnapping with homicide, among others.

In the bill he co-authored with Deputy Speaker and Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro, Alvarez said there is a need to reimpose death penalty because “the national crime rate has grown to such alarming proportions requiring an all-out offensive against all forms of felonious acts.”

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