Credit this to the persuasive Latin charm employed by Bono and company on a grinning Mrs. Arroyo who was visibly thrilled each time one of them held up her hand to his lips to greet her the way it's traditionally done in the Old Continent, with a tender kiss.
Señor Bono, with a delegation in tow, had journeyed all the way from Madrid in a bid to convince Mrs. Arroyo to commute the death sentence issued by the Cebu Regional Trial Court in 1997 to Larranaga and five of his gangmates, namely Rowen Adlawan, Josman Aznar, Ariel Balansag, Alberto Cano and James Anthony Uy for the brutal rape-slay of sisters Jacqueline and Marie Joy Ong. Uy's younger brother, James Andrew, got off with a life term as he was still a minor when the crime was committed.
Spain, which had abolished capital punishment many years ago, had been pressuring the Philippines to pardon Larranaga, son of the famous Basque pelotari Manuel Francisco Larranaga who had made a name for himself in the Cebu fronton and married a Filipina socialite.
They weren't disappointed. During their brief visit to Malacañang, Mrs. Arroyo gave them the assurance that Larranaga wouldn't be executed, at least not while she was President so this means until the year 2010 when her term is set to expire under normal circumstances.
Since the privilege cannot only be confined to Larranaga's case but would also have to be extended to the other death row inmates, in effect this means that the moratorium on capital punishment has again been reimposed by the President.
Capital punishment was first imposed during the post-martial law era during the time of President Ramos, to be exact on Jan. 30, 1994, in response to a clamor from various sectors to quell the rising tide of crime and criminality in the country.
When he became President, Joseph Estrada was forced to come up with a moratorium on the death penalty sometime in the year 2000 after being increasingly criticized, most of all by the Catholic Church and Cardinal Sin, for condoning this “barbaric” act.
Some 10 months after she assumed power in 2001, Mrs. Arroyo was pressured by the Chinese community and the group of anti-crime activist Teresita Ang-See to lift the moratorium imposed by her predecessor to give full vent to the collective outrage of the public as a result of the Betty Sy Chua kidnap-slay case. That she did so with a heavy heart is evidenced by the fact that not a single death row inmate has been taken to the execution chamber since then.
With this on the table, now should be the right time for our honorable legislators in Congress to reassess the long-term feasibility of maintaining capital punishment - which awakened societies in this age of globalization now look on as a barbaric and inhuman form of corporal punishment - as an official state policy adopted for crime deterrence.
Sen. Nene Pimentel, the Senate minority leader who wants to enact legislation patterned after those in certain states in the US that provide for life imprisonment without parole for persons convicted of heinous crimes, views the President's pronounced refusal to implement this policy as a virtual admission that capital punishment generally speaking has proved ineffective in preventing commission of crimes.
And if the nation's paramount leader does not wish to have any part of the existing death penalty law which was passed by Congress over a decade ago, ergo the only logical course of action is to have this repealed, because we'd all look stupid if we didn't.
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