Call for restoration of death penalty to deal with drug trafficking

A key Philippines lawmaker has advocated the restoration of death penalty in order to prevent prison inmates from turning into drug dealers, The Manila Times Online reported on Sunday.

The proposal was made by Oriental Mindoro representative Rey Umali, chairman of the House Committee on Justice that investigated illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid prison, one day ahead of the scheduled release of the committee’s report.

“The revelation in this committee hearings made it more imperative for us to re-impose death penalty. Look…these criminals who are facing life sentence…what would they be afraid of except for death? They won’t fear anything except death,” Umali said in a radio interview.

Over ten inmates testified during the House justice committee’s hearing, accusing former justice secretary and incumbent Senator Leila de Lima of abetting drug trade and other illegal activities in Bilibid prison in exchange for payoffs.

But de Lima has persistently denied the allegations and has accused the government of pressuring inmates to testify against her.

The House justice committee chairman said the prison system had not reformed prisoners. “You have to raise the level of fear factor among these convicted felons so they won’t find themselves enjoying in Bilibid with the drug trade. They are not being reformed at all,” he added.

Capital punishment was abolished in 1987 during the presidency of Corazon Aquino but was re-imposed in 1993 under President Fidel Ramos. Crimes that were punishable by death included rape, kidnapping, murder and drug trafficking.

Umali also proposed that all the prisons under the Bureau of Corrections of the Justice Department on centralized supervision and control. He said his committee would recommend amendments to the Anti-Wiretapping law and the relaxation of Bank Security law to allow authorities to monitor drug-related financial transactions.