CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 19 August 2017

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Congress ducks for cover

MANILA (SE): The infamous Kill Bill, which seeks to reintroduce the death penalty and is currently before the congress in The Philippines was given a second haircut, as the number of crimes that would have qualified in the original bill was shaved from 21 down to three and then to one, when it returned for a second reading on February 28.

What is significant in the original shave is that murder was removed, making life safer for the executioners involved in the massive purge on the poor of the nation ordered by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, and also the large land owners, who often protect their assets and political clout with private militia.

Now plunder and treason have also been removed from the bill, two crimes pretty well reserved for the elite of the elite in the country, who are mostly the only ones with the resources needed to commit either of these two crimes.

While they are now pretty well protected in those two areas, the remaining black cloud looming over the congressional heads embraces drug-related offences, a profitable sideline investment.

Drug-related offences have become a crime without a rationale, with guilty verdicts being passed without hearings at the coffee tables of provincial barrios and death sentences handed out in the same preemptory manner.

While the stumbling block in the process is the senate, which has been resisting the Kill Bill, removing the president’s pet passion would tear the heart out of the proposed legislation and undoubtedly bring fire and brimstone down on the hapless heads of the congress, which is maybe too big a threat even for the strongest stalwarts of justice to sweat out.

The arrest of senator and former secretary for justice, Leila de Lima, on February 24, on spurious charges related to receiving drug money and protecting drug lords, which followed a character assassination campaign at the hands of Duterte last year, is a harbinger for those who resist the will of the Malacañang.

“This is a sneaky move to try to win consensus over a bill that is openly against the international obligations of The Philippines,” a statement from the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances reads.

In its newest form, the bill proposes that drug-related offences punishable by death would cover the importation of dangerous drugs; sale, trading, administration, dispensing, delivery, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs; maintenance of a den, dive or resort; manufacture of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals; and planting of evidence on suspected drug dealers.

Life imprisonment will be the lot of those caught in possession of drugs.

The Philippines has had an on-again-off-again relationship with the death penalty, as it was dropped from the law books in 1986, only to be reintroduced in 1993 and then dropped again in 2006.

With or without it criminals have continued to have a merry time and, since studies show that nothing is really known about the threat the death penalty poses in the minds of those who commit a capital crime, there is no evidence to show that it is a deterrent at all.

It leaves the suspicious aroma that the real agenda is far from fighting crime. If it was, the government may do something constructive about it.

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