(Editor’s Note: In an interview with Eagle News Service in July 2019, former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III gives his views about several issues. We are re-publishing this exclusive interview to share the insights of the late President Noynoy Aquino who passed away on June 24, 2021.
In this part of the video interview, he shares that in his younger years, he was for the death penalty, and would often even have a debate with his mother, but that he later realized why the death penalty is wrong, and should not be re-imposed in the country amid an imperfect justice system where the innocent are at times convicted.)
(Eagle News) — Former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III said that in his younger years, when he was not yet in public office, he would often have a debate with his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, on the death penalty.
“Nung araw, sang-ayon ako e, sa death penalty e. Sa totoo lang, neg-debate kami ng nanay ko,” he said during the exclusive interview with Eagle News Service in July 2019.
But when he became a lawmaker and attended the various hearings concerning the reimposition of capital punishment, his views turned around.
During the hearings, it became more apparent how death penalty should not be used in the country where the justice system is far from perfect, he said.
Aquino recalled that the Public Attorney’s Office was so understaffed that a lawyer had to attend to the so-called night courts, where he had to represent up to 35 clients at a time – those who cannot afford private lawyers – to defend them.
“Pero lalo na nung naging kongresista ako, at nagkaroon ng maraming hearing, naroon ako sa human rights e. Tapos natuklasan ko , for instance, hindi ko naman sinsisi, kunwari yung PAO (Public Affairs Office), pinakitaan kami na ang dalas pupunta sa tinatawag na night court.”
“Ang isang abugado, hinaharap 35 kliyente, 35 or 24,” Aquino said.
There are times that a suspect would be asked to plead guilty to have a lower sentence.
“Pero sa dulo noon, kawawa naman. Kunwari inosente, meron ka nang record.”
In the death penalty, the error of an innocent person being sentenced to death and executed, can no longer be rectified, Aquino observed.
“Parang pinakita sa akin, talagang hindi mo masasabing perpekto ang ating justice system,” he said recalling his realization when he was still a lawmaker.
The advances in the science of DNA further exposed the inconsistencies and fallibility of the justice system, even in other countries, and showed how imposing the death penalty is wrong, he said.
“May mga ibang bansa ganoon din. Lalo na ngayon, may DNA testing, ang tagal nakulong, tapos dahil doon sa advances sa DNA science, napatunayang, hindi pala ito yung taong ito, inosente pala,” Aquino observed.
“Ngayon, gaano na katagal siyang nakulong. Mayroong Board of Compensation yata e. Ang tanda ko lalo na sa Kongreso, kapag ikaw ay nakulong nang mali, inosente ka, ang ibabayad sa iyo, maski gaano na katagal na nakulong, P10,000,” he said noting how this small amount cannot correct a wrong done to an innocent person who was jailed.
“Parang rebuild your life with P10,000. Hindi ka naman makapagpapa-aral ng anak mo ng isang semestre sa P10,000,” Aquino said.
But in case a person is wrongly convicted, and there is no death penalty, that person can still try to rebuild his life.
“Buhay ka pa, may chance ka pang makabawi,” he said.
The situation is very different, if he is wrongly put to death. “Is an apology enough?” Aquino asked. He said that this was why he is against death penalty
“Paano kung death penalty, patay ka na, sorry ha. Tinitingnan lang natin ano, lalo na sa kaunti ang kakayahan na ipagtanggol ang sarili nila,” he said.
“Parang lumalabas na nalaka-imperfect ng ating sistema. At yung death, permanent, wala ka nang rectification of an error. Pag nagkamali doon, wala na, tapos na. sorry.”
“Palagay ko hindi tama yung pagkakaroon ng death penalty.”
(Eagle News Service)