1. The Constitution provides that, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws” (Sec. 1, ART. III).
2. “Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it. Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua.” (Sec. 19 , ibid.).
3. In other words, under the Due Process Clause, the rule is: A PERSON MAY BE DEPRIVED OF LIFE PROVIDED THERE IS DUE PROCESS OF LAW.
This has been the consistent rule since the 1935, 1973 and the 1986 (Freedom) Constitutions.
4. However, the 1987 Constitution introduced a novel modification which provides that, as a general rule, THE DEATH PENALTY SHALL NOT BE IMPOSED, with respect to which the Congress may provide for exceptions based on COMPELLING REASON INVOLVING HEINOUS CRIME.
5. According to the sponsors of the modification, all they are saying is THE JUDGES CANNOT IMPOSE DEATH PENALTY (BERNAS, The Intent of the 1986 Constitution Writers; 1995 ed., p. 229). Ratio for abolition
6. According to Commissioner Joaquin Bernas:
“My recollection on this is that there was a division in the Committee not on whether the death penalty should be abolished or not, but rather on whether the abolition should be done by the Constitution – in which case it cannot be restored by the legislature – or left to the legislature. The majority voted for the constitutional abolition of the death penalty. And the reason is that capital punishment is inhuman for the convict and his family who are traumatized by the waiting, even if it is never carried out. There is no evidence that the death penalty deterred deadly criminals, hence, life should not be destroyed just in the hope that other lives might be saved. Assuming mastery over the life of another man is just too presumptuous for any man. The fact that the death penalty as an institution has been there from time immemorial should not deter us from reviewing it. Human life is more valuable than an institution intended precisely to serve human life. So, basically, this is the summary of the reasons which were presented in support of the constitutional abolition of the death penalty.” (BERNAS, ibid.)
7. What is death penalty ? It is “(T)he extreme penalty for the commission of a crime, to be executed within the manner provided by statute, such as hanging, electrocution, or asphyxiation by gas” (Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, 3rd ed.). It is the “(S)upreme penalty exacted as punishment for murder and other capital crimes; held not to be, under all circumstances, cruel and unusual punishment within prohibitions of 8th and 14th Amendments, US Constitution” (Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th ed.).
8. What does the term ‘impose’ mean? “To place a burden upon a person” (Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, id.).
9. A distinction must be made between existence and imposition. The death penalty continues to exist under the 1987 Constitution, but its imposition has been prohibited, subject to certain exceptions.
10. Thus, while the penalty exists, it cannot, as a general rule, be imposed.
11. The statutory existence subsists, but the judicial imposition is proscribed. The constitutional prohibition therefore appears to be addressed to the judiciary, not Congress. Hence, it would seem that the Congress may validly defy the curious prohibition, and justify such act on the basis of the established rule under Section 1 of the Bill of Rights.
12. Under Section 1 of the Bill...