(By: Governor Nemitz Beltran)

I am against death penalty for it is anti poor. I have been practicing law, my first love, for more than 30 years now and it has been my observation that our legal system in actual operation is not equal between the rich and the poor.

It must be told to the people who are not familiar with trial procedure that the judge decides the case only on the basis of the evidence and the law.

The problem of the poor is his means of producing his evidence. Under the system, heinous crimes are to be tried speedily such that a number of days is assigned to the prosecution (Government) to terminate presentation of its evidence and similarly a number of days is given to the accused.

For the accused who is detained in jail (the crime is not bailable) during the pendency of his case, it is only his poor wife, who have many children, who works to bring his witnesses in court, and to produce the other evidence required by his lawyer. The poor wife is placed in a very difficult situation because she cannot even visit her husband in jail for lack of transportation money. How then can a poor accused put up a good fight of his case?

Clearly, the fight is uneven!

Even if the accused is provided with a lawyer free of charge or counsel de officio, if the poor accused cannot produce his evidence the lawyer is helpless.

To the argument that the Supreme Court automatically reviews sentences involving death penalty, the laymen must know that the Supreme Court only reviews what appears on the record. Precisely, the evidence of the poor accused is not found in the record due to his inability to compile and produce the evidence necessary for his defense. What then is there for the Supreme Court to Review?

To the argument that death penalty is a deterrent, time and experience are the living testament that it is not.

Repentance only comes after the crime is committed. When one commit rape for instance, he does not think of the penalty during the rape for he is controlled and influenced by his animal behavior or the nefarious effects of the prohibited drug. Proof to this is when death penalty was re-imposed the commission of heinous crimes continued with impunity.

The case of Leo Echegaray to the contrary notwithstanding, death penalty is inhuman, it proceeds from a law that mandates the killing of human being.

On the other hand, life sentence would be appropriate penalty for heinous crimes, because with this kind of punishment, the convicted felon shall have the chance to reform which, in the first place, is the objective of penology, otherwise known as the six pillars of justice.

The convicted felon is given the chance to reform. On the other hand, and to me this is more important, the conviction and execution of the innocent is avoided. It must be admitted that human justice is not error free, it is only God who renders perfect justice.

So let us stop death penalty. We must instead focus on crime prevention, heinous or otherwise, fight the cause that impelled the doer in committing the crime. This way, innocent lives are save, and the youth are thus secured and cordoned from the sinister temptations of the prohibited drugs.

Malaybalay, Bukidnon, November 23, 1998.

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