MANILA (SE): In the face of mounting opposition from both the general public and the senate to a proposal before the congress to reintroduce the death penalty in The Philippines, the list of crimes that could see an offender go to the gallows, the lethal injection room or stand in front of a firing squad has been considerably trimmed from its original 21.
Those that are being kept on the bill are the rarely invoked crimes of treason and plunder, but significantly a wide variety of drug-related offences.
While this may seem inoffensive on the surface, it reflects a highly insidious piece of sleight of hand, as the problematic drug-related crimes remain and it is widely believed that its main purpose will be to supplement the random extrajudicial killing of suspects.
Dropping murder takes those who have been involved in the killing spree that has seen around 8,000 people die in the past eight months off the list of possible contenders for the death penalty.
This not only includes the hitmen themselves, but those higher up the ladder who order the killings, protect the murders or participate simply by dereliction of their duty to protect the welfare of citizens.
But maybe more significantly, since there has been doubt that the bill would get through the senate unscathed, the dropping of the crimes of piracy and bribery helps to remove those that congress members are most likely to be involved in, making the bill a bit less personally threatening for those who sit in the upper and lower houses.
The elimination of planting of evidence also makes it more palatable for the police and some echelons of the judiciary that often rely heavily on such evidence to build fictitious cases against the innocent.
In an attempt to strike while the iron is hot, the second reading of the bill was brought forward by a week from its planned date to February 28.
The diluting of the bill may make it more palatable to the rich and powerful, as well as those high up in government, but not to the stratum of society that would be most in the gun for condemnation—the poor.
Death row was never overpopulated with wealthy people convicted on a criminal charge, but was the exclusive domain of the poor, or as Wayne Belizar, from the Novaliches Family and Life Commission puts it, “Capital punishment is for those with no capital.”
While capital punishment is already on the books of The Philippines and currently is set at life imprisonment, the bill under consideration aims at extending its reach to include the death penalty.
But as Belizar points out, it is difficult to find the wealthy among the ragged population doing life in Philippine prisons.