Witness to execution


EIGHTEEN years ago, same month, I watched convicted child-rapist Leo Echegaray die slowly of lethal injection, the first Filipino executed after Congress restored death penalty in 1993. I was on the other side of the execution chamber, separated only by a glass panel from the doomed convict, as one of the reporters selected by drawing of lots, to witness the execution.

Ron Huerto

There was almost nothing to indicate life ebbing away from the convict, except for the faint beep of the heartbeat monitor, its rhythm getting slower and slower until it stopped.

Years have dimmed my memories of that day. I don’t even remember how I felt. Emotion took a backseat as my duty to observe and report came first.

The raging discussion on the restoration of the death penalty in Congress dredged up from my memory what few details I can recall from that fateful day.

It focused my attention to the central issues on the restoration of capital punishment.

Do we need it? Would it really deter the commission of crimes so evil and revolting that society needs to take life for justice, retribution, or self-defense?

Pros say this is necessary to make us and our loved ones safer in our homes and in the streets. Antis say it doesn’t work and serve only to perpetuate more injustice to the poor. Then, there is the moral issue of the right to end someone’s life.

As far as I can recall, the arguments were basically the same ones raised when Congress restored death penalty two decades ago. What is beyond dispute is that worsening peace and order conditions sparked a clamor for the government to do something about it.

While it is Congress that will eventually decide the issue, I think it is equally important that each of us do some soul-searching and determine for ourselves what would be best for us and our country.

Whatever course Congress takes on the issue will definitely leave an impact on our lives, to a greater or lesser extent. But it won’t succeed unless backed by our support.

Amid the acrimonious debates, I find comfort in the irony that pros and antis on the death penalty actually bill share the same end game: for us to have a government concerned not on executing convicts but rather, one with the conviction to execute programs to give us a better life.