SC: No good proof that DEATH penalty deters crimes


In a further attempt to show compelling reasons, the proponents of the death penalty argue that its reimposition "would pose as an effective deterrent against heinous crimes." HOWEVER, NO STATISTICAL DATA, NO SUFFICIENT PROOF, EMPIRICAL OR OTHERWISE, HAVE BEEN SUBMITTED TO SHOW WITH ANY CONCLUSIVENESS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PRESCRIPTION OF THE DEATH PENALTY FOR CERTAIN OFFENSES AND THE COMMISSION OR NON-COMMISSION THEREOF. This is a theory that can be debated on and on, in the same manner that another proposition — that the REAL DETERRENT to crime is the certainty of immediate arrest, prosecution and conviction of the culprit without unnecessary risk, expense and inconvenience to the victim, his heirs or his witnesses — can be argued indefinitely. This debate can last till the academics grow weary of the spoken word, but it would not lessen the constitutionally-imposed burden of Congress to act within the "heinousness" and "compelling reasons" limits of its death-prescribing power.

Quite apart from requiring the attendant element of heinousness, the Constitution also directs Congress to determine "compelling reasons" for the revival of the capital penalty. It is true that paragraphs 3 and 4 of the preamble of RA 7659 made some attempt at meeting this requirement. But such effort was at best feeble and inconsequential. It should be remembered that every word or phrase in the Constitution is sacred and should never be ignored, cavalierly-treated or brushed aside. Thus, I believe that the compelling reasons and the characterization of heinousness cannot be done wholesale but must shown for each and every crime, individually and separately.

The words "compelling reasons" were included in the Charter because, in the words of Comm. Monsod, "in the future, circumstances may arise which we should not preclude today . . . and that the conditions and the situation (during the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission) might change for very specific reasons" requiring the return of the constitutionally-abhorred penalty.

In his sponsorship of House Bill No. 62 which later evolved into RA 7659, Congressman Pablo Garcia, in answer to questions raised by Representative Edcel Lagman tried to explain these compelling reasons:

MR. LAGMAN: So what are the compelling reasons now, Mr.
Speaker? . . .

MR. GARCIA (P.) The worsening peace and order condition in the country, Mr. Speaker. That is one.

MR. LAGMAN. So the compelling reason which the distinguished sponsor would like to justify or serve as an anchor for the justification of the reimposition of the death penalty is the alleged worsening peace and order situation. The Gentleman claims that that is one of the compelling reasons. But before we dissect this particular "compelling reason," may we know what are the other compelling reasons, Mr. Speaker?

MR. GARCIA(P.) Justice, Mr. Speaker.

MR. LAGMAN. Justice.

MR. GARCIA (P.). Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. LAGMAN. Justice is a compelling reason, Mr. Speaker? Could the Gentleman kindly elaborate on that answer? Why is justice a compelling reason as if justice was not obtained at the time the Constitution abolished the death penalty? Any compelling reason should be a supervening circumstances after 1987.

MR. GARCIA (P.). Mr. Speaker, I have repeatedly said again and again that if one lives in an organized society governed by law, justice demands that crime be punished and that the penalty imposed be commensurate with the offense committed.

MR. LAGMAN. The Gentleman would agree with me that when the Constitution speaks of the compelling reasons to justify the reimposition of death penalty, it refers to reasons which would supervene or come after the approval of the 1987 Constitution. Is he submitting that justice, in his own concept of a commensurate penalty for the offense committed, was not obtained in 1987 when the Constitution abolished the death penalty and the people ratified it?

MR. GARCIA (P.). That is precisely why we are saying that now, under present conditions, because of the seriousness of the offenses being committed at this time, justice demands that the appropriate penalty must be meted out for those who have committed heinous crimes.

x x x x x x x x x

In short, Congressman Garcia invoked the preambular justifications of "worsening peace and order" and "justice". With all due respect I submit that these grounds are not "compelling" enough to justify the revival of state-decreed deaths. In fact, I dare say that these "reasons" were even non-existent. Statistics from the Philippine National Police show that the crime volume and crime rate particularly on those legislated capital offenses did not worsen but in fact declined between 1987, the date when the Constitution took effect, and 1993, the year when RA 7659 was enacted.

Witness the following debate also between Representatives Garcia and Lagman:

MR. LAGMAN. Very good, Mr. Speaker.

Now, can we go to 1987. Could the Gentleman from Cebu inform us the volume of the crime of murder in 1987?

MR. GARCIA (P.). The volume of the crime of murder in 1987 is 12,305.

MR. LAGMAN. So, the corresponding crime rate was 21 percent.

MR. GARCIA (P.). Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. LAGMAN. That was in 1987. Mr. Speaker, could the distinguished chairman inform us the volume of murder in 1988?

MR. GARCIA (P.).
It was 10,521, Mr. Speaker.

MR. LAGMAN. Or it was a reduction from 12.305 in 1987 to 10.521 in 1988.Correspondingly, the crime rate in the very year after the abolition of the death penalty was reduced from 21 percent to 18 percent. Is that correct, Mr. Speaker?

MR. GARCIA (P.). That is correct, Mr. Speaker. Those are the statistics supplied by the PC.

MR. LAGMAN. Now can we go again to 1987 when the Constitution abolished the death penalty? May we know from the distinguished Gentleman the volume of robbery in 1987?
MR. GARCIA (P.). Will the Gentleman state the figure? I will confirm it.

MR. LAGMAN. No. Mr. Speaker, I am asking the question.

MR. GARCIA (P.). It was 22,942, Mr. Speaker, and the crime rate was 40 percent.

MR. LAGMAN. This was the year immediately after the abolition of the death penalty. Could the Gentleman tell us the volume of robbery cases in 1988?

MR. GARCIA (P.). It was 16,926, Mr. Speaker.

MR. LAGMAN. Obviously, the Gentleman would agree with me, Mr. Speaker that the volume of robbery cases declined from 22.942 in 1987 or crime rate of 40 percent to 16.926 or a crime rate of 29 percent. Would the Gentleman confirm that, Mr. Speaker?

MR. GARCIA (P.). This is what the statistics say. I understand we are reading now from the same document.

MR. LAGMAN. Now, going to homicide, the volume 1987 was 12,870 or a crime rate of 22 percent. The volume in 1988 was 11,132 or a crime rate of 19 percent. Would the Gentleman confirm that, Mr. Speaker?

MR. GARCIA(P.). As I Said, Mr. Speaker, we are reading from the same document and I would not want to say that the Gentleman is misreading the document that I have here.

MR. LAGMAN. But would the Gentleman confirm that?

MR. GARCIA (P.). The document speaks for itself.

When interpellated by Sen. Arturo Tolentino, Sen. Jose Lina gave some figures on the number of persons arrested in regard to drug-related offenses in the year 1987 as compared to 1991:

Let me cite this concrete statistics by the Dangerous Drug Board.

In 1987 — this was the year when the death penalty was abolished — the persons arrested in drug-related cases were 3,062, and the figure dropped to 2,686 in 1988.

By the way, I will furnish my Colleagues with a photo copy of this report.

From 3,062 in 1987, it dropped to 2,686. Again, it increased a bit to 2,862 in 1989. It still decreased to 2,202 in 1990, and it increased again to 2,862 in 1991.

But in 1987, when the death penalty was abolished, as far as the drug-related cases are concerned, the figure continued a downward trend, and there was no death penalty in this time from, 1988 to 1991.

In a further attempt to show compelling reasons, the proponents of the death penalty argue that its reimposition "would pose as an effective deterrent against heinous crimes." However no statistical data, no sufficient proof, empirical or otherwise, have been submitted to show with any conclusiveness the relationship between the prescription of the death penalty for certain offenses and the commission or non-commission thereof. This is a theory that can be debated on and on, in the same manner that another proposition — that the real deterrent to crime is the certainty of immediate arrest, prosecution and conviction of the culprit without unnecessary risk, expense and inconvenience to the victim, his heirs or his witnesses — can be argued indefinitely. This debate can last till the academics grow weary of the spoken word, but it would not lessen the constitutionally-imposed burden of Congress to act within the "heinousness" and "compelling reasons" limits of its death-prescribing power.

Witness, for instance, this interesting exchange between Commissioners Joaquin Bernas and Napoleon Rama (I Record of the Constitutional Commission, p. 678):

FR. BERNAS. When some experts appeared before us and we asked them if there was evidence to show that the death penalty had deterred the commission of deadly crimes, none of them was able to say that there was evidence, conclusive evidence, for that.

MR. RAMA. I am curious. Who are these experts then — social scientist or penologists or what?

FR. BERNAS. Penologists.

MR. RAMA. Of course, we are aware that there is also another school of thought here, another set of experts, who would swear that the death penalty discourages crimes or criminality. Of course, Commissioner Bernas knows that never in our history has there been a higher incidence of crime. I say that criminality was at its zenith during the last decade.

FR. BERNAS. Correct, in spite of the existence of the death penalty.

MR. RAMA. Yes, but not necessarily in spite of the existence of the death penalty. At any rate, does the sponsor think that in removing the death penalty, it would not affect, one way or another, the crime rate of the country?

FR. BERNAS. The position taken by the majority of those who voted in favor of this provision is that means other than the death penalty should be used for the prevention of crime. (People v. Echegaray. G.R. No. 117472. February 7, 1997)

Popular Posts