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House averse to revival of death penalty

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A large number of lawmakers at the House of Representatives are not inclined to support the revival of the death penalty "due to flaws in the criminal justice system that could easily lead to mistaken executions."

"Our criminal justice system has many imperfections, and capital punishment leaves no room for rectification once a convict has been put to death. We can’t free the dead," said House Deputy Majority Leader and Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo on Sunday.

Romulo, a lawyer by profession, said the risk of wrongful convictions is unusually high "because the pillars of our justice system, particularly the police and the courts, are severely handicapped."

In life imprisonment, he said, a wrongfully convicted person could still be freed even after languishing in prison for years.

"We can't have the death penalty if we still have highly irresponsible police officers brazenly torturing suspects, fabricating evidence and illegally snatching people on trumped up charges," he said.

Romulo bewailed the growing cases of police "hulidaps."

He also cited the case of a whole police precinct linked to the videotaped torture of a suspect and the incident in which a woman was picked up on false charges and then raped at the police district headquarters.

Already prone to corruption, Camp Crame acknowledged last week that the many police officers are also inept, with four out of every 10 of them wanting in basic criminal investigation skills.

The clamor to reinstate the death penalty has resounded amid a fresh crime wave, including the spread of extremely violent motor vehicle theft cases.

Romulo called the crime rash as "a law enforcement problem."

"Car thieves have become more aggressive because they are literally getting away with murder. The only sure way to suppress them is to put them all behind bars," he said.

"The certainty of swift punishment is our best deterrence to crime, more than the punishment itself," he added.

Congress reinstated the death penalty for 13 heinous crimes in 1993, only to abolish it in 2006 due to mounting flaws.

That year, then Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban admitted that a "judicial error" had caused the mistaken execution of incestuous rape convict Leo Echegaray in 1999.

Panganiban said it was proven during trial that Echegaray was not "a father, stepfather or grandfather" of the victim, and that while the house painter may have been "a common-law spouse of the mother of the victim," this was never alleged in the complaint

By Lilybeth G. Ison - PNA




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