Bible-quoting “Hanging Judge” Favors Death Penalty

NAGUILIAN, La Union – Retired Judge Joven Costales here has expressed support for the approval of the death penalty bill to “serve as a lesson to those who commit (heinous) crime.”

In fact, as judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 45 in Urdaneta City in Pangasinan, Costales, now 79 and still practicing law, had imposed death sentences of 26 individuals and would have sentenced 30 others if the death penalty was not abolished in June 24, 2006 under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Tagged as the “Hanging Judge,” Costales said that of the 26 death sentences, five were then affirmed by the Supreme Court to death under R.A. 8177 (an act designating death by lethal injection). “But because the death penalty was abolished, all the other cases were commuted with life imprisonment,” he said.

Costales who retired a year after the abolition of the law, said that most of those meted death were accused of gruesome murders, rape, kidnapping, and other brutal killings some of which were related to drug addiction.

“Aside from quoting Bible verses, I sentenced them based on the evidence. If the evidence is strong, I have nothing to do but to apply the law. “Dura lex, sed lex. The law is law. Almost all of my rulings were sustained by the Supreme Court,” he said.

But Costales said that the re-imposition of the death penalty would not totally deter criminality. Nevertheless, he favors execution by death chamber with lethal injection.

“It’s good that this matter (death penalty) was again reopened so that they (lawmakers) will find out what its benefit for the country. As far as I’m concerned, it will help in deterring crime but not totally,” he said.

Costales dared those opposing the death penalty, especially the senators, congressmen, the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church, to think twice because heinous crimes might also be committed against their own their families.

“What if, for example, the senators, the bishops, priests and congressmen, what if their family members or relatives will become victims of heinous crimes? What will they do? Is it enough for them to just accept the apologies of the suspects. It’s true, the Pope will forgive them but he is also not even impalpable because he is not free of death. We are all humans,” Costales said.

Costales, like Sen. Manny Pacquiao, uses Bible verses that God allows the death penalty.

He cited Deuteronomy 21:22-23 as favoring death to “sinners,” when the verses said, ” If a man has sinned and should be put to death and you hang him on a tree, his body must not hang all night on the tree.”

Costales also quoted Genesis 9:6 which states that: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man,” and Exodus 21:12 which say that “Anyone who assaults and kills another person must be put to death.

“This shows that God allows death penalty. Even the laws of our ancestors,” he said.

He disclosed that 56 individuals were already executed since the death penalty was imposed in the Philippines and more than 1,300 were
sentenced to death and only seven were meted death since the implementation of RA 7659 or the Heinous Crime Law during the time of
President Fidel Ramos.

“There are already 140 countries who abolished death penalty but for us in the Philippines, it’s an ‘on and off’ issue. Now they want to
bring it out again because of various heinous crimes that are happening,” Costales said.

Costales’ decisions on death sentences were compiled in three editions of books and were also published in Bannawag, the Ilokano weekly magazine.

Now the incumbent president of the Senior Citizen’s Federation of La Union, Costales said that although he sentenced a lot by death, he did not receive any death threat or harassment on his decisions.

“I did not receive any death threat. Why? Because a Judge cannot be threatened if his decisions are true and correct. A Judge can be
killed if he is corrupt. But for me, I did have any bodyguard, as now. I travel then from La Union to Urdaneta on Mondays to Fridays. If
there was any one wrong in my decisions, I probably would have been killed already,” he said.

In laying down his rulings on death sentence during promulgation, Costales said he observed that most of the accused and their relatives
were quiet.

“I saw their (accused) reactions and their families, they were so quiet and sometime there’s even someone who collapsed. Why? This means that the accused did the offense and were at fault. We interpret thoroughly the pieces of evidence which prove their guilt,” he added.

He said he wants murder to be included in the death penalty because “there are a lot of brutal killings now, like robbery with murder,
massacre, kidnapping with murder, rape with homicide, among others.”

The House of Representatives amended the bill and limited the application of the death penalty to treason, rape with homicide, rape
of a minor, rape committed by a law enforcement officer, plunder, and drug-related offenses (except possession of drugs, which is punishable with life imprisonment). JUN ELIAS/Northbound Philippines News