Thursday, December 1, 2005  

'Abolish death penalty'

      THE Commission on Human Rights yesterday joined hands with European Union in pressing for the abolition of the death penalty law, labeling it as "barbaric" and "anti-life."

      Several pro-life advocates and members of the European Union yesterday made their positions known and asked the Philippine government to repeal Republic Act  7659, which reinstated capital punishment in 1993.

     During a one-day dialog on the death penalty and restorative justice yesterday in Cebu City, majority of participants denounced the imposition of lethal injection as a form of punishment for heinous crimes.

      Wilhelm Soriano, CHR chief, said it was the position of the commission to preserve life and not condone capital punishment.

      "(The) CHR has valued more the right to life and we subscribe to the theory that the death penalty is not (an) effective deterrent to crime," Soriano said.

      He said the CHR welcomed moves from legislators to schedule a debate on measures pending in Congress seeking the repeal of the law.

      There are currently 16 bills pending in both houses of Congress calling for the abolition of the capital punishment. 

      "There have been measures to repeal RA 7659. We're glad Speaker Jose de Venecia and Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. expressed openness for a debate on those bills, and we support the debate," Soriano said.

      There are 1,180 prisoners on death row, 1,145 of whom are male, while 35 are female.

      "The death penalty is the deliberate killing of a human being by the state. It is unconstitutional per se for being the utmost form of torture," a CHR statement read.

      Soriano noted that majority of those on death row belonged to the poor and underprivileged sector of society.

      Lawyer Persida Acosta, head of the Public Attorney's Office, also lambasted the imposition of capital punishment, saying that many of those languishing in jail were innocent.

      Acosta said the PAO handled close to 500 cases of death row convicts, 50 percent of which got an acquittal from the Supreme Court.

      "Through PAO, we were able to save hundreds of death convicts. Imagine if they would all be meted with death penalty and they were innocent," she said.

      Ambassador Jan de Kok, head of the European Commission delegation to the Philippines, yesterday said there was no concrete evidence to prove death penalty deterred crime.

      De Kok said the European Union was for the abolition of death penalty in the Philippines.

      "We are pro-life. It (death penalty) is not dignified. It has no place in any civil society. There is no evidence that death penalty serves as a deterrent to crime because it is a fundamental violation of human rights," he told Cebu Daily News.

      De Kok said members of the EU are conducting visits to several developing countries, including the Philippines, imposing the death penalty to discuss different views and approaches to human rights.

       "Since its inception, the European Union has affirmed its commitment to the principles of liberty, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as these are the core values common to its member-states. Adherence to these principles is crucial to peace, stability, and prosperity in any society," and EU statement said.

      De Kok said they were conducting the dialogs with the aim of finding solutions to pressing human rights concerns in the Philippines.

      "We want to see how we can collectively improve the judicial system in the country that is why we are having these dialogs to convince them to have a better system than having the death penalty," he said.

      De Kok noted several flaws in the judicial system, such as lack of funding, the kind of education involved in the judiciary, problems on corruption and good governance. /CORRES- PONDENT JOLENE R. BULAMBOT 

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