“Do I favor the death penalty? Theoretically, I do, but when you realize that there’s a four percent error rate, you end up putting guilty people to death.” — Gary Johnson
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW JERSEY — I bumped off two stories over the weekend to pave the way for an article I deemed to be more urgent and relevant in the heels of President Duterte’s speech during the swearing in of several newly-appointed cabinet officials on January 9 in Malacanang.
President Duterte called “narco-politicians” as “dead men walking.”
He vowed to kill big time “shabu” dealers, and the next batch, reports quoted him as saying, would be the city and municipal mayors engaged in illegal drugs and whose names he mentioned weeks after he assumed office in July 2016.
I was so alarmed because some of the mayors President Duterte had linked to illegal drugs based on the list provided by his intelligence men were from my place in Western Visayas.
They were Jed Patrick Mabilog of Iloilo City, Alex Centena of Calinog, Iloilo; Siegfredo Betita of Carles, Iloilo; and Mariano Malones of Maasin, Iloilo.
Except for Betita, the three are known to me personally. Malones was our former business manager in the News Express; Centena is a friend way back in the 80’s when he was not yet a public official; and Mabilog is our mayor in Iloilo City.
Are they among those included in President Duterte’s so-called death list?
We want to know. We need to know especially because there has been no solid evidence linking them to illegal drugs.
They could only be victims of political black propaganda or vendetta. They were never convicted by any competent court.
In fact, no formal charges have been filed against them yet. They were vilified, along probably with several others who could be innocent in the Duterte list, without any formal trial.
What if the president erred or the list he was reading was a sham and contained falsehood? Since July 2016 when their names were disclosed as alleged drug protectors, the government has failed to substantiate the allegations.
Therefore it’s premature to condemn them; it’s not fair to punish them with a harsh “death sentence” which could become only another case of extra-judicial killing, God forbid.
While most Filipinos who elected President Dutere in the May 2016 polls support his campaign to stamp out criminality in the country especially the president’s “all-out” war policy against illegal drugs, pressures from human rights advocates, including the United Nations and other international organizations, continued to hound the president as dead bodies piled up in the streets.
Most of those killed in “shootouts” with police were drug addicts and small-time peddlers of illegal substance. Their families claimed the dead were victims of summary execution.
The Philippines doesn’t have any law on death penalty. Convicted criminals spend time in jail and are not killed.
If these mayors are executed when their guilt was not yet proven beyond reasonable doubt–and in the absence of any law that supports the death penalty–the president becomes an executioner and violator of the law, not the dead mayors.