Press Release
February 23, 2016


Believing that law offenders deserve second chances, vice-presidential frontrunner Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero reiterated his long-standing opposition to death penalty, which abolition across the globe is now being sought by Pope Francis.

"Habang may buhay, may pag-asa at may pagkakataong iwasto ang pagkakamali," Escudero said, as proposals to revive the capital punishment are being floated for offenders of drug trafficking and other heinous crimes.

"Madaling sabihin, papatayin ko ang lahat ng kriminal. Paano kung kapatid mo, asawa mo, magulang mo o anak mo ang napagdudahang kriminal? O papaano kung totoo? Sabihin natin, totoong kriminal. Walang pag-asang magbago? Walang pag-asang iwasto ang pagkakamali?" he pointed out.

The veteran lawmaker's statement came at a time when Pope Francis urged Catholic leaders around the world to suspend death sentences for a year to mark the Holy Year of Mercy, while insisting that the commandment "You shall not kill" was absolute and equally valid for the guilty as for the innocent.

Escudero has been a staunch advocate of the repeal of the death penalty since he first became a lawmaker in 1998 until the capital punishment was finally abolished in 2006 during his third and final term as representative of the first district of Sorsogon in Congress.

According to Escudero, the death penalty fails to recognize that guilty people have the potential to change, denying them the opportunity to rejoin society.

"Naniniwala ako na walang taong ipinanganak na masama. Naging masama na lamang siya dahi sa kanyang kapaligiran. At kung naging masama man sya, ang Diyos nga nagbibigay ng pagkakataon para magbago at magbagong buhay, tao pa kaya?" Escudero said.

He added: "Parusahan sya kung kailangang parusahan, turuan sya ng tamang leksyon kung kailangan pero wala sa kamay ng tao na kitilin at tuldukan ang pagkakataon ninuman ng kapwa natin na makapagbagong-buhay at bumawi sa anumang kasalanan o pagkakamali na maaaring nagawa nya."

At the same time, Escudero said the death penalty is discriminatory and used disproportionately against the poor who cannot afford good legal representation.

He said the harsh reality is that an offender won't end up on death row if he can afford top caliber private lawyers.

"Sa kasaysayan ng parusang kamatayan sa ating bansa, pinataw po lamang 'yan sa mahirap. Walang napatawan ng parusang kamatayan na mayaman at malaking drug lord," he explained.

Escudero also said the death penalty won't work in a country like the Philippines where the criminal justice system is "rife with discrimination, corruption and abuse."

Besides, he said, the country has long shifted from punitive to restorative justice, which allows offenders to recognize their mistakes, make amends for their wrongdoing and avoid further involvement in criminal activities.

The Philippines was the first country in Asia to abolish the death penalty under the ratified Constitution in 1987. It was, however, re-imposed in 1992 during the Ramos administration due to the rising crime rate. Falling under the edict were "heinous crimes" from murder to rape and drug-related offenses.

In 1999, then President Joseph Estrada lifted the ban on executions. Seven inmates were put to death between 1999 and 2000 before Estrada imposed a moratorium after pressure from the influential Catholic Church and rights groups.

The Philippines completely abolished the capital punishment for all crimes in 2006 with the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346, or "An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines."

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