FULL TEXT: Death penalty a 'tool of state repression' – Castro

The House of Representatives approved on 3rd and final reading the death penalty bill on Tuesday, March 7 with a vote of 217-54-1.

Congressmen were given a chance to explain their votes before the plenary. Among them was ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, who voted against House Bill 4727.

Here is the full text of Castro's speech as provided by her office.

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This representation voted no to House Bill Number 4727, which aims to restore the death penalty. I, together with my fellow solons in the Makabayan bloc vehemently oppose this house bill because it is anti-poor; a historic tool for suppressing political dissent; prone to abuse by corrupt police, military, and other state agents; and ultimately, an ineffective deterrent against criminality, rooted in mass poverty and an unjust social system. 

Also, I am opposing the railroading that happened last time. It is unacceptable, we are elected by the people, we owe them every decision we make. This is not a game; the bill has the utmost seriousness due to the matter of life and death. As mandated by the Constitution, we are a democratic state but due to the railroading of this bill, the Congress blatantly killed such democracy. The railroading reveals that they are willing to defy their own rules and the constitutional mandate just to favor the government’s interest.

Death penalty targets the poor, oppressed and marginalized, who cannot afford adequate legal representation which violates their basic right to due process. Given the existing inequality in the society combined with our flawed and corrupt justice system, the reimposition of death penalty will inflict another series of injustice to the poor and marginalized. They will experience continuous injustices. We all know that those who are ‘poor in life must be more on law’ but with such penalty the poor will be both poor in life and in law.

Death penalty is a tool of state repression in the context of fascism against the people. Our history tells of the executions imposed on Filipinos who challenged colonialism and tyranny. During the Spanish colonial rule, the Gomburza and Dr Jose Rizal were both sentenced to public executions, in an attempt to quell the growing challenge to Spanish authority. Subsequently, the American colonizers retained the death penalty, and used it to execute Filipino freedom fighters such as Macario Sakay. The dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed the death penalty also in the name of deterring criminality, but was primarily used to deter the growing rebellion and social unrest under martial rule. In today’s context, the proposed return of the death penalty is disturbing, given that hundreds of political prisoners are charged with trumped-up crimes, which could now be punishable by death under HB 4727. The death penalty could once again be used to heighten repression against the people. 

The death penalty is prone to abuse by corrupt police, military, other armed forces and other state agents. The broadened coverage of heinous crime provides more opportunities for extortion, planting of evidence, trumped-up cases and other crimes.

Lastly, it is an ineffective deterrent; crime rates are still high. By 1999, the year that Leo Echegaray was executed, the national crime volume, instead of abating, ironically increased by 15.3 percent or a total of 82,538 (from 71,527 crimes in the previous year) according to Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. 

The reimposition of death penalty violates the Second Optional Protocol to the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights which the Philippines ratified in 2007, binding the government not to execute anyone within its jurisdiction and to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty. 

Again, I believe that the justice and penal system must be in form of rehabilitation rather than punitive and anti-life. However, this will not happen as long as the government remains in its rotten stage and mass poverty and social injustices prevail. – Rappler.com