DOJ says death penalty constitutionally legal, effective deterrent to heinous crimes

MANILA — The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday voiced its strong support to proposed measures restoring the death penalty for certain heinous crimes on the grounds that capital punishment is supported under the present Constitution, deters the commission of heinous crimes and a valid exercise of the police power of the State.

Appearing before the House Justice Sub-Committee on Judicial Reforms, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II told members of the panel that the restoration of the death penalty finds legal support under the 1987 Constitution, particularly in Article III, Section 19.

The said section provides that: “(1) Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neither shall the death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it.”

“It is clear in this provision that there is nothing therein that expressly declares the abolition of the death penalty. It merely says that the death penalty shall not be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, Congress hereafter provides for it,” Aguirre stressed.

“This provision merely suspended the death penalty and gives Congress the prerogative to restore it in case of compelling reasons, which it expressly cited as heinous crimes,” he said.

The Justice Secretary likewise opined that imposing the death penalty will definitely deter the commission of heinous crimes and would save the lives of thousands of potential victims.

“If the law on death penalty would be strictly enforced, there is no iota of doubt that this will instill the fear of death in the minds of would-be criminals. In this way, people with criminal minds would think twice before they commit crimes,” he said to the lawmakers.

He said that the abolition of the death penalty law and the reduction of the penalty to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment under R.A. 9346 had led to the alarming upsurge of heinous crimes such as drug-trafficking, murder and rape among others in the past years.

“In fact it was correctly pointed out in one of the proposed measures that incarceration has not proven to be a deterrent to one who has been convicted of drug-trafficking from committing the same crime as drug traffickers continue to engage in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison,” Aguirre noted.

He said that the abolition of the death penalty has also led to the high incidence of carnapping, kidnapping, piracy, robbery with homicide, robbery with rape and other heinous crimes, committed even in broad daylight.

The Justice Secretary said “this alarming situation poses a clear, present and grave danger to public safety, public order and the rule of law and thus provides a compelling reason to restore the death penalty for these heinous crimes.”

“In the face of this upsurge of heinous crimes, the Government cannot leave its citizens helpless and defenseless. It is high time for the Government, through the Legislative Branch, exercise its police power by restoring the supreme penalty of death as deterrence to crimes and hereby send a chilling message to the hardened criminals that this Government means business and that barbarity has no place in our society,” he said.

“It is in this regard that the DOJ strongly supports the restoration of the death penalty not only for crimes against persons, such as murder, parricide and infanticide but also for the other heinous crimes such as rape, robbery with rape, robbery with homicide, piracy and, most especially, drug-trafficking,” Aguirre said. Cielito Reganit/