Thursday, April 20, 2006 

OPINION
  Death penalty debate      

      There wouldn’t have been a problem for Thelma Chiong as far as the latest caper of President Arroyo was concerned. She initially said she would accept the commutation of the death sentence of the young men who abducted, raped and killed her two daughters. Until she was told that the commutation includes the possibility of parole.
      
      I couldn’t blame Mrs. Chiong. She and other well-meaning people poured their all to get justice for Jacqueline and Marijoy. How could she countenance, then, seeing, for example, Josman Aznar roaming the Ayala mall again? It would no longer just be about the feeling of justice denied; it would also conjure fears for the Chiong family’s safety.
      
      Admittedly, though, the death penalty debate has become never-ending simply because both the pros and the antis have compelling arguments in defense of their positions. Nowhere is this truer than in the differing reactions of the relatives of the victims of heinous crimes and the kin of the convicts to the President’s pronouncement.

      Consider the other side of the Chiong case coin. I am sure Margarita Larrañaga, mother of Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga, one of the Chiong 7 convicts, welcomed the President’s Holy Week decision. So too probably Paco’s friends who vouched for his innocence. At least death is no longer hovering over the head of their loved one.

      I have always been against the death penalty, mmm

 especially considering the kind of justice system we have. How many people on death row are actually innocent of the crimes they were accused of? Even if only one person would be unjustly brought to the gallows, for reason of poverty perhaps, that’s argument enough against the death penalty.

      But looking at the anger and pain people like Mrs. Chiong are now in would be enough to bring ambivalence into that stand. If only there is a middle ground to this.

      The Spanish government should have just kept silent about it. I am referring to the statement issued by the Directorate General for External Communication of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs thanking the President for “commuting the death penalty” which “would benefit Francisco Javier Larrañaga Gonzales” (in short, Paco).

      It would now look like the pressure they brought to bear on the Philippine government in Paco’s case have paid off. Which does not look good. The Chiong case is one sensitive matter, especially for Cebuanos, who have witnessed how it unfurled before their eyes. The Spanish government statement can be considered, then, as insensitive.

      On the other hand, relatives of the victims of the convicts should not equate President Arroyo’s commutation of the death sentences to life to pardon. A life sentence is still a sentence. It’s not like the convicts would be freed. They will still be paying for the crime with which they were convicted of, though in a different way.

      TEXTREAX. From Pedro Narvios, who identified himself as a computer programmer and former policeman:

“Kanang reward system ni Mayor Tomas Osmeña makapadaghan sa patay sa ato. For example, magsugo ko nga ipapatay ang usa ka tawo unya mogasto ko og P100,000. Unya i-double-cross nako ang gunman aron makadawat ko sa reward nga P200,000, di makaginansya pa ko.”

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