The etymological root of the word "heinous" can be traced to the Early Spartans' word, "haineus", meaning, hateful and abominable, which, in turn, was from the Greek prefix "haton", denoting acts so hatefully or shockingly evil. The definition or description of heinous crimes is found in the second whereas clause of the preamble of Republic Act No. 7659, which reads: "x x x the crimes punishable by death under this Act are heinous for being grievous, odious and hateful offenses and which, by reason of their inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and perversity are repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society." This definition or description, according to the Supreme Court, is a sufficient criterion of what is to be considered a heinous crime. This criterion is deliberately undetailed as to the circumstances of the victim, the accused, place, time, the manner of commission of crime, its proximate consequences and effects on the victim as well as on society, to afford the sentencing authority sufficient leeway to exercise his discretion in imposing the appropriate penalty in cases where Republic Act No. 7659 imposes not a mandatory penalty of death but the more flexible penalty of reclusion perpetua to death.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref> See also Death penalty.
- 1 Types of crimes under R.A. No. 7659
- 2 Legislative history or R.A. 7659
- 3 Prohibition on the imposition of death penalty
- 4 References
Types of crimes under R.A. No. 7659
There were two types of crimes under R.A. No. 7659: (1) crimes penalized by reclusion perpetua to death; and (2) crimes penalized by mandatory capital punishment upon the attendance of certain specified qualifying circumstances.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
Crimes penalized by reclusion perpetua to death
All the crimes penalized by reclusion perpetua to death are not capital crimes per se, the uniform penalty for all of them being not mandatory death but the flexible penalty of reclusion perpetua to death. In other words, it is premature to demand for a specification of the heinous elements in each of foregoing crimes because they are not anyway mandatorily penalized with death. The elements that call for the imposition of the supreme penalty of death in these crimes, would only be relevant when the trial court, given the prerogative to impose reclusion perpetua, instead actually imposes the death penalty because it has, in appreciating the evidence proffered before it, found the attendance of certain circumstances in the manner by which the crime was committed, or in the person of the accused on his own or in relation to the victim, or in any other matter of significance to the commission of the crime or its effects on the victim or on society, which circumstances characterize the criminal acts as grievous, odious, or hateful, or inherently or manifestly wicked, vicious, atrocious or perverse as to be repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society. The following crimes are penalized by reclusion perpetua to death under R.A. No. 7659:<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
- Treason (Sec. 2)
- Qualified piracy (Sec. 3)
- Parricide (Sec. 5)
- Murder (Sec. 6)
- Infanticide (Sec. 7)
- Kidnapping and serious illegal detention if attended by any of the following four circumstances: (a) the victim was detained for more than three days; (b) it was committed simulating public authority; (c) serious physical injuries were inflicted on the victim or threats to kill him were made; and (d) if the victim is a minor, except when the accused is any of the parents, female or a public officer (Sec. 8)
- Robbery with homicide, rape or intentional mutilation (Sec. 9)
- Destructive arson if what is burned is (a) one or more buildings or edifice; (b) a building where people usually gather; (c) a train, ship or airplane for public use; (d) a building or factory in the service of public utilities; (e) a building for the purpose of concealing or destroying evidence Or a crime; (f) an arsenal, fireworks factory, or government museum; and (g) a storehouse or factory of explosive materials located in an inhabited place; or regardless of what is burned, if the arson is perpetrated by two or more persons (Sec. 10)
- Rape attended by any of the following circumstances: (a) the rape is committed with a deadly weapon; (b) the rape is committed by two or more persons; and (c) the rape is attempted or frustrated and committed with homicide (Sec. 11)
- Plunder involving at least P50 million (Sec. 12)
- Importation of prohibited drugs (Sec. 13)
- Sale, administration, delivery, distribution, and transportation of prohibited drugs (id.)
- Maintenance of den, dive or resort for users of prohibited drugs (id.)
- Manufacture of prohibited drugs (id.)
- Possession or use of prohibited drugs in certain specified amounts (id.)
- Cultivation of plants which are sources of prohibited drugs (id.)
- Importation of regulated drugs (Sec. 14)
- Manufacture of regulated drugs (id.)
- Sale, administration, dispensation, delivery, transportation, and distribution of regulated drugs (id.)
- Maintenance of den, dive, or resort for users of regulated drugs (Sec. 15)
- Possession or use of regulated drugs in specified amounts (Sec. 16)
- Misappropriation, misapplication or failure to account dangerous drugs confiscated by the arresting officer (Sec. 17)
- Planting evidence of dangerous drugs in person or immediate vicinity of another to implicate the latter (Sec. 19)
- Carnapping where the owner, driver or occupant of the carnapped motor vehicle is killed or raped (Sec. 20).
Heinous crimes per se
On the other hand, the mandatory penalty of death is imposed in the following crimes under R.A. No. 7659:<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
- Qualified bribery. "If any public officer is entrusted with law enforcement and he refrains from arresting or prosecuting an offender who has committed a crime punishable by reclusion perpetua and/or death in consideration of any offer, promise, gift or present, he shall suffer the penalty for the offense which was not prosecuted. If it is the public officer who asks or demands such gift or present, he shall suffer the penalty of death." (Sec. 4)
- Kidnapping and serious illegal detention for ransom resulting in the death of the victim or the victim is raped, tortured or subjected to dehumanizing acts. "The penalty shall be death where the kidnapping or detention was committed for the purpose of ransom from the victim or any other person, even if none of the circumstances above-mentioned were present in the commission of the offense. When the victim is killed or dies as a consequence of the detention or is raped, or is subject to torture or dehumanizing acts, the maximum penalty [of death] shall be imposed." (Sec. 8)
- Destructive arson resulting in death. "If as a consequence of the commission of any of the acts penalized under this Article, death results, the mandatory penalty of death shall be imposed." (Sec. 10)
- Rape with the victim becoming insane, rape with homicide and qualified. "When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has become insane, the penalty shall be death. When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, a homicide is committed, the penalty shall be death. The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:
- 1. when the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent or the victim.
- 2. when the victim is under the custody of the police or military authorities.
- 3. when the rape is committed in full view of the husband, parent, any of the children or other relatives within the third degree of consanguinity.
- 4. when the victim is a religious or a child below seven (7) years old
- 5. when the offender knows that he is afflicted with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) disease.
- 6. when committed by any member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police or any law enforcement agency.
- 7. when by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has suffered permanent physical mutilation." (Sec. 11 )
- Sale, administration, delivery, distribution and transportation of prohibited drugs where the victim is a minor or the victim dies. "Notwithstanding the provision of Section 20 of this Act to the contrary, if the victim of the offense is a minor, or should a prohibited drug involved in any offense under this Section be the proximate cause of the death of victim thereof, the maximum penalty [of death] herein provided shall be imposed." (Sec. 13)
- Maintenance of den, dive, or resort for users of prohibited drugs where the victim is a minor or the victim dies. "Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 20 of this Act to the contrary, the maximum of the penalty [of death] shall be imposed in every case where a prohibited drug is administered, delivered or sold to a minor who is allowed to use the same in such place.
Should a prohibited drug be the proximate case of the death of a person using the same in such den, dive or resort, the maximum penalty herein provided shall be imposed on the maintainer notwithstanding the provisions of Section 20 of this Act to the contrary." (Sec. 13)
- Sale, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of regulated drugs where the victim is a minor or the victim dies. "Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 20 of this Act to the contrary, if the victim of the offense is a minor, or should a regulated drug involved in any offense under this Section be the proximate cause of the death of a victim thereof, the maximum penalty [of death] herein provided shall be imposed." (Sec. 14)
- Maintenance of den, dive, or resort for users of regulated drugs where the victim is a minor or the victim dies. "Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 20 of this Act to the contrary, the maximum penalty [of death] herein provided shall be imposed in every case where a regulated drug is administered, delivered or sold to a minor who is allowed to use the same in such place.
Should a regulated drug be the proximate cause of death of a person using the same in such den, dive or resort, the maximum penalty herein provided shall be imposed on the maintainer notwithstanding the provisions of Section 20 of this Act to the contrary." (Sec. 15)
- Drug offenses if convicted are government officials, employees or officers including members of police agencies and armed forces. "The maximum penalties [of death] provided for in Section 3, 4 (1), 5(1), 6, 7, 8, 9, 11,12 and 13 of Article II and Sections 14, 14-A, 14(1), 15A (1), 16, and 19 of Article III [of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972] shall be imposed, if those found guilty or any of the same offenses are government officials, employees or officers including members of police agencies and the armed forces." (Sec. 19)
- Planting of dangerous drugs as evidence in drug offenses with the mandatory death penalty if convicted are government officials, employees or officers. "Any such above government official, employee or officer who is found guilty of 'planting' any dangerous drugs punished in Section s 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 13 of Article II and Sections 14, 14-A, 15, and 16 of Article III (of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972) in the person or in the immediate vicinity of another as evidence to implicate the latter, shall suffer the same penalty as therein provided." (Sec. 19)
- In all the crimes in RA. No. 7659 in their qualified form. "When in the commission of the crime, advantage was taken by the offender of his public position, the penalty to be imposed shall be in its maximum [of death] regardless of mitigating circumstances. The maximum penalty [of death] shall be imposed if the offense was committed by any person who belongs to an organized/syndicated crime group. An organized/syndicated crime group means a group of two or more persons collaborating, confederating or mutually helping one another for purposes of gain in the commission of any crime." (Sec. 23)
The evil of a crime may take various forms. There are crimes that are, by their very nature, despicable, either because life was callously taken or the victim is treated like an animal and utterly dehumanized as to completely disrupt the normal course of his or her growth as a human being. The right of a person is not only to live but to live a quality life, and this means that the rest of society is obligated to respect his or her individual personality, the integrity and the sanctity of his or her own physical body, and the value he or she puts in his or her own spiritual, psychological, material and social preferences and needs. Seen in this light, the capital crimes of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for ransom resulting in the death of the victim or the victim is raped, tortured, or subjected to dehumanizing acts; destructive arson resulting in death, and drug offenses involving minors or resulting in the death of the victim in the case of other crimes; as well as murder, rape, parricide, infanticide, kidnapping and serious illegal detention where the victim is detained for more than three days or serious physical injuries were inflicted on the victim or threats to kill him were made or the victim is a minor, robbery with homicide, rape or intentional mutilation, destructive arson, and carnapping where the owner, driver or occupant of the carnapped vehicle is killed or raped, which are penalized by reclusion perpetua to death, are clearly heinous by their very nature.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
There are crimes, however, in which the abomination lies in the significance and implications of the subject criminal acts in the scheme of the larger socio-political and economic context in which the state finds itself to be struggling to develop and provide for its poor and underprivileged masses. Reeling from decades of corrupt tyrannical rule that bankrupted the government and impoverished the population, the Philippine Government must muster the political will to dismantle the culture of corruption, dishonesty, greed and syndicated criminality that so deeply entrenched itself in the structures of society and psyche of the populace. Terribly lacking the money to provide even the most basic services to its people, any form of misappropriation or misapplication of government funds translates to an actual threat to the very existence of government, and in turn, the very survival of the people it governs over. Viewed in this context, no less heinous are the effects and repercussions of crimes like qualified bribery, destructive arson resulting in death, and drug offenses involving government officials, employees or officers, that their perpetrators must not be allowed to cause further destruction and damage to society.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
Legislative history or R.A. 7659
Article III, Section 19 (1) of the 1987 Constitution simply states that Congress, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, may re-impose the death penalty. Nothing in the said provision imposes a requirement that for a death penalty bill to be valid, a positive manifestation in the form of a higher incidence of crime should first be perceived and statistically proven following the suspension of the death penalty. Neither does the said provision require that the death penalty be resorted to as a last recourse when all other criminal reforms have failed to abate criminality in society. It is immaterial and irrelevant that R.A. No. 7659 cites that there has been an "alarming upsurge of such crimes", for the same was never intended by said law to be the yardstick to determine the existence of compelling reasons involving heinous crimes. Fittingly, thus, what R.A. No. 7659 states is that "the Congress, in the interest of justice, public order and rule of law, and the need to rationalize and harmonize the penal sanctions for heinous crimes, finds compelling reasons to impose the death penalty for said crimes."<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
In the House of Representatives
The House of Representatives had, in the Eight Congress, earlier approved on third reading House Bill No. 295 on the restoration of the death penalty for certain heinous crimes. The House was in effect rebuffed by the Senate when the Senate killed House Bill No. 295 along with other bills coming from the House. House Bill No. 295 was resurrected during the Ninth Congress in the form of House Bill No. 62 which was introduced by twenty one (21) Members of the House of Representatives on 27 October 1992. House Bill No. 62 was a merger of House Bill Nos. 125, 187, 411, 764, 506, 781, 955, 1565, 1586, 2206, 3238, 3576 and 3632 authored by various Members of the Lower House.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
In his Sponsorship Speech, Representative Manuel R. Sanchez of Rizal ably essayed the constitutional vesting in Congress of the power to re-impose the death penalty for compelling reasons invoking heinous crimes as well as the nature of this constitutional pre-requisite to the exercise of such power.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
"Mr. Speaker, in Article III, Section 19(1) of Constitution reads, a I quote:
'Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress shall thereafter provide for it . . .'
The phrase 'unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress shall thereafter provide for it was introduced as an amendment by then Comm. Christian Monsod.
The import of this amendment is unmistakable. By this amendment, the death penalty was not completely abolished by the 1987 Constitution. Rather, it merely suspended the death penalty and gave Congress the discretion to review it at the propitious time.
Arguing for the inclusion of said amendment in the fine provision, Comm. Ricardo Romulo said, and I quote:
"'The people should have the final say on the subject, because, at some future time, the people might want to restore death penalty through initiative and referendum.
Commissioner Monsod further argued, and I quote:
We cannot presume to have the wisdom of the ages. Therefore, it is entirely possible in the future that circumstances may arise which we should not preclude today.
xxx xxx xxx
I believe that [there] are enough compelling reasons that merit the reimposition of the capital punishment. The violent manner and the viciousness in which crimes are now committed with alarming regularity, show very clearly a patent disregard of the law and a mockery of public peace and order.
In the public gallery section today are the relatives of the victims of heinous crimes — the Hultmans, the Maguans, the Vizcondes, the Castanoses, and many more, and they are all crying for justice. We ought to listen to them because their lives, their hopes, their dreams, their future have fallen asunder by the cruel and vicious criminality of a few who put their selfish interest above that of society.
Heinous crime is an act or series of acts which, by the flagrantly violent manner in which the same was committed or by the reason of its inherent viciousness, shows a patent disregard and mockery of the law, public peace and order, or public morals. It is an offense whose essential and inherent viciousness and atrocity are repugnant and outrageous to a civilized society and hence, shock the moral self of a people.
Of late, we are witness to such kind of barbaric crimes.
The Vizconde massacre that took the lives of a mother and her two lovely daughters, will stand in the people's memory for many long years as the epitome of viciousness and atrocity that are repugnant to civilized society.
The senseless murder of Eldon Maguan, and up-and-coming young business executive, was and still is an outrage that shocks the moral self of our people.
The mind-boggling death of Maureen Hultmann, a comely 16 year-old high school student who dreamt of becoming a commercial model someday, at the hands of a crazed man was so repulsive, so brutal that it offends the sensibilities of Christians and non-Christians alike
The cold-blooded double murder of Cochise Bernabe and Beebom Castanos, the lovely and promising couple from the University of the Philippines, is eternally lodged in the recesses of our minds and still makes our stomach turn in utter disgust.
xxx xxx xxx
The seriousness of the situation is such that if no radical action is taken by this body in restoring death penalty as a positive response to the overwhelming clamor of the people, then, as Professor Esteban Bautista of the Philippine Law Center said, and I quote:
'When people begin to believe that organized society is unwilling or unable to impose upon criminal offenders the punishment they deserve, there are sown the seeds of anarchy — of self-help, of vigilante justice and lynch law. The people will take the law upon their hands and exact vengeance in the nature of personal vendetta.'
It is for this reason, Mr. Speaker, that I stand here and support House Bill No. 62.
As duly elected Representatives of our people, collectively, we ought to listen to our constituents and heed their plea — a plea for life, liberty and pursuit of their happiness under a regime of justice and democracy, and without threat that their loves ones will be kidnapped, raped or butchered.
But if such a misfortune befalls them, there is the law they could rely on for justice. A law that will exact retribution for the victims. A law that will deter future animalistic behavior of the criminal who take their selfish interest over and above that of society. A law that will deal a deathblow upon all heinous crimes.
Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleagues, for the preservation of all that we hold dear and sacred, let us restore the death penalty."
A studious comparison of the legislative proceedings in the Senate and in the House of Representatives reveals that, while both Chambers were not wanting of oppositors to the death penalty, the Lower House seemed less quarrelsome about the form of the death penalty bill as a special law specifying certain heinous crimes without regard to the provisions of the Revised Penal Code and more unified in the perception of what crimes are heinous and that the fact of their very heinousness involves the compulsion and the imperative to suppress, if not completely eradicate, their occurrence. Representative Miguel L. Romero of Negros Oriental noted that: "All these crimes have a common denominator which qualifies them to the level of heinous crimes. A heinous crime is one which, by reason of its inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity or perversity, is repugnant and outrageous to the common standards of decency and morality in a just and civilized society." He then proceeded to provide the details of the nature of the heinous crimes enumerated in House Bill No. 62:<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
- The crime of treason is defined as a breach of allegiance to a government, committed by a person who owes allegiance to it. By the 'allegiance' is meant the obligation of fidelity and obedience which individuals owe to the government under which they live or to their sovereign in return for the protection which they receive.
- In kidnapping, the though alone of one's loved one being held against his or her own will in some unidentified house by a group of scoundrels who are strangers is enough terrify and send shivers of fear through the spine of any person, even scoundrels themselves.
- In robbery accompanied by rape, intentional mutilation or arson, what is being punished by death is the fact that the perpetrator, at the time of the commission of the crime, thinks nothing of the other crime he commits and sees it merely as a form of self-amusement. When a homicide is committed by reason of the robbery, the culprits are perceived as willing to take human life in exchange for money or other personal property.
- In the crime of rape, not only do we speak of the pain and agony of the parents over the personal shock and suffering of their child but the stigma of the traumatic and degrading incident which has shattered the victim's life and permanently destroyed her reputation, not to mention the ordeal of having to undergo the shameful experience of police interrogation and court hearings.
- Piracy, which is merely a higher form of robbery, is punished for the universal hostility of the perpetrators against their victims who are passengers and complement of the vessel, and because of the fact that, in the high seas, no one may be expected to be able to come to the rescue of the helpless victims. For the same reason, the crime of air piracy is punished due to the evil motive of the hijackers in making unreasonable demands upon the sovereignty of an entire nation or nations, coupled with the attendant circumstance of subjecting the passengers to terrorism.
The debate on House Bill No. 62 lasted from 27 October 1992 to 11 February 1993. On 11 February 1993, the Members of the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the death penalty bill on second reading. On 23 February 1993, the Members of the House of Representatives cast their vote on House Bill No. 62 when it was up for consideration on third reading. The results were 123 votes in favor, 26 votes against, and 2 abstentions.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
Debate in the Senate
The Senate never doubted its power as vested in it by the constitution, to enact legislation re-imposing the death penalty for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes. Pursuant to this constitutional mandate, the Senate proceeded to a two-step process consisting of: first, the decision, as a matter of policy, to re-impose the death penalty or not; and second, the vote to pass on the third reading the bill re-imposing the death penalty for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
On 15 February 1993, after a fierce and fiery exchange of arguments for and against capital punishment, the Members of the Senate voted on the policy issue of death penalty. With seventeen (17) affirmative votes and seven (7) negative votes and no abstention, the Chair declared that the Senate has voted to re-incorporate death as a penalty in the scale of penalties as provided in the Revised Penal Code. A nine-person committee was subsequently created to draft the compromise bill pursuant to said vote. The mandate of the committee was to retain the death penalty, while the main debate in the committee would be the determination of the crimes to be considered heinous.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
On 17 March 1993, Senator Arturo Tolentino, Chairman of the Special Committee on the Death Penalty, delivered his Sponsorship Speech. He began with an explanation as to why the Senate Bill No. 891 re-imposes the death penalty by amending the Revised Penal Code and other special penal laws and includes provisions that do not define or punish crimes but serve purposes allied to the reimposition of the death penalty.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
In response to a query by Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as to whether or not it would have been better if the Senate were to enact a special law which merely defined and imposed the death penalty for heinous crimes, Senator Tolentino explicated, thus:<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
"x x x [T]hat may be a way presenting the bill. But we must bear in mind that the death penalty is imposed in the Revised Penal Code. Therefore, when the Constitution abolished the death penalty, it actually was amending the Revised Penal Code to such an extent that the Constitution provides that where the death penalty has already been imposed but not yet carried out, then the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua, that is the penalty in the Revised Penal Code. So we thought that it would be best to just amend the provisions of the Revised Penal Code, restoring the death penalty for some crimes that may be considered as heinous. That is why the bill is in this form amending the provisions of the Revised Penal Code.
Of course, if some people want to present a special bill . . . the whole trouble is, when a special bill is presented and we want to punish in the special bill the case of murder, for instance, we will have to reproduce the provisions of the Revised Penal Code on murder in order to define the crime for which the death penalty shall be imposed. Or if we want to impose the death penalty in the case of kidnapping which is punished in the Revised Penal Code, we will do the same -- merely reproduce. Why will we do that? So we just followed the simpler method of keeping the definition of the crime as the same and merely adding some aggravating circumstances and reimposing the death penalty in these offenses originally punished in the Revised Penal Code."
From 17 March 1993, when the death penalty bill was presented for discussion until 16 August 1993, the Members of the Senate debated on its provisions. The stiffest opposition thereto was bannered by Senator Lina who kept prodding the sponsors of the bill to state the compelling reason for each and every crime for which the supreme penalty of death was sought. Zeroing in on the statement in the preamble of the death penalty bill that the same is warranted in the face of "the alarming upsurge of [heinous] crimes", Senator Lina demanded for solid statistics showing that in the case of each and every crime in the death penalty bill, there was a significantly higher incidence of each crime after the suspension of the death penalty on 2 February 1987 when the 1987 Constitution was ratified by the majority of the Filipino people, than before such ratification. Inasmuch as the re-impositionists could not satisfy the abolitionists with sufficient statistical data for the latter to accept the alarming upsurge of heinous crimes as a compelling reason justifying the reimposition of the death penalty, Senator Lina concluded that there were, in fact, no compelling reasons therefor. In the alternative, Senator Lina argued that the compelling reason required by the constitution was that "the State has done everything in its command so that it can be justified to use an inhuman punishment called death penalty". The problem, Senator Lina emphasized, was that even the re-impositionists admit that there were still numerous reforms in the criminal justice system that may and must be put in place, and so clearly, the recourse to the enactment of a death penalty bill was not in the nature of a last resort, hence, unconstitutional in the absence of compelling reasons. As an initial reaction to Senator Lina's contentions, Senator Tolentino explained that the statement in the preamble is a general one and refers to all the crimes covered by the bill and not to specific crimes. He added that one crime may not have the same degree of increase in incidence as the other crimes and that the public demand to impose the death penalty is enough compelling reason.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
Equally fit to the task was Senator Wigberto Tañada to whom the battle lines were clearly drawn. He put to issue two things: first, the definition of "heinous crimes" as provided for in the death penalty bill; and second, the statement of compelling reasons for each and every capital crime. His interpellation of Senator Tolentino clearly showed his objections to the bill:<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
"Senator Tañada. x x x But what would make crimes heinous, Mr. President? Are crimes heinous by their nature or elements as they are described in the bill or are crimes heinous because they are punished by death, as bribery and malversation are proposed to be punished in the bill?
Senator Tolentino. They are heinous by their nature, Mr. President, but that is not supposed to be the exclusive criterion. The nature of the offense is the most important element in considering it heinous but, at the same time, we should consider the relation of the offense to society in order to have a complete idea of the heinous nature of these offenses.
In the case of malversation or bribery, for instance, these offenses by themselves connected with the effect upon society and the government have made them fall under the classification of heinous crimes. The compelling reason for imposing the death penalty is when the offenses of malversation and bribery becomes so grave and so serious as indicated in the substitute bill itself, then there is a compelling reason for the death penalty.
Senator Tañada. With respect to the compelling reasons, Mr. President, does the Gentleman believe that these compelling reasons, which would call for the reimposition of the death penalty, should be separately, distinctly and clearly stated for each crime so that it will be very clear to one and all that not only are these crimes heinous but also one can see the compelling reasons for the reimposition of the death penalty therefor?
Senator Tolentino. Mr. President, that matter was actually considered by the Committee. But the decision of the Committee was to avoid stating the compelling reason for each and every offense that is included in the substitute measure. That is why in the preamble, general statements were made to show these compelling reasons. And that, we believe, included in the bill, when converted into law, would be sufficient notice as to what were considered compelling reasons by the Congress, in providing the death penalty for these different offenses.
If a matter like this is questioned before the Supreme Court, I would suppose that with the preamble already in general terms, the Supreme Court would feel that it was the sense of Congress that this preamble would be applicable to each and every offense described or punishable in the measure.
So we felt that it was not necessary to repeat these compelling reasons for each and every offense.
Senator Tañada. Mr. President, I am thinking about the constitutional limitations upon the power of Congress to enact criminal legislation, especially the provisions on the Bill of Rights, particularly the one which says that no person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.
Can we not say that under this provision, it is required that the compelling reasons be so stated in the bill so that the bill, when it becomes a law, will clearly define the acts and the omissions punished as crimes?
Senator Tolentino. Mr. President, I believe that in itself, as substantive law, this is sufficient. The question of whether there is due process will more or less be a matter of procedure in the compliance with the requirements of the Constitution with respect to due process itself which is a separate matter from the substantive law as to the definition and penalty for crimes.
Senator Tañada. Under the Constitution, Mr. President, it appears that the reimposition of the death penalty is subject to three conditions and these are:
1. Congress should so provide such reimposition of the death penalty;
2. There are compelling reasons; and
3. These involve heinous crimes.
Under these provision of the Constitution, paragraph 1, Section 13, does the distinguished Gentleman not feel that Congress is bound to state clearly the compelling reasons for the reimposition of the death penalty for each crime, as well as the elements that make each of the crimes heinous included in the bill?
Senator Tolentino. Mr. President, that is a matter of opinion already. I believe that whether we state the compelling reasons or not, whether we state why a certain offense is heinous, is not very important. If the question is raised in the Supreme Court, it is not what we say in the bill that will be controlling but what the Supreme Court will fell as a sufficient compelling reason or as to the heinous nature whether the crime is heinous or not. The accused can certainly raise the matter of constitutionality but it will not go into the matter of due process. It will go into the very power of Congress to enact a bill imposing the death penalty. So that would be entirely separate from the matter of due process."
Senator Francisco Tatad, on his part, pointed out that the death penalty bill violated our international commitment in support of the worldwide abolition of capital punishment, the Philippines being a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Second Optional Protocol. Senator Ernesto Herrera clarified, however, that in the United Nations, subject matters are submitted to the different committees which vote on them for consideration in the plenary session. He stressed that unless approved in the plenary session, a declaration would have no binding effect on signatory countries. In this respect, the Philippines cannot be deemed irrevocably bound by said covenant and protocol considering that these agreements have reached only the committee level.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
After the protracted debate, the Members of the Senate voted on Senate Bill No. 891 on third reading. With seventeen (17) affirmative votes, four (4) negative votes, and one abstention, the death penalty bill was approved on third reading on 16 August 1993. The Senate's vote to pass Senate Bill No. 891 on third reading on 16 August 1993 was a vindication of the House of Representatives.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
Bicameral Conference Committee
After the approval on third reading of House Bill No. 62 on 23 February 1993 and of Senate Bill No. 891 on 16 August 1993, the Bicameral Conference Committee convened to incorporate and consolidate them. On 31 December 1993, Republic Act No. 7659, entitled, "An Act to Impose the Death Penalty on Certain Heinous Crimes, Amending for that Purpose the Revised Penal Code, as Amended, Other Special Penal Laws, and for Other Purposes," took effect.<ref>People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, 7 February 1997</ref>
Prohibition on the imposition of death penalty
However, on 24 June 2006, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act No. 9346, entitled "An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines". See Death penalty for more discussions.