Vice President Jejomar C. Binay today said he will continue seeking reprieve for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) facing the death penalty in other countries.
Binay said no time or resource of the State is ever wasted on appealing for a reprieve or a lighter judgement for OFWs who are sentenced to death.
“Our people would never understand if the government did nothing to help such a poor convict, even when help no longer seemed possible,” Binay said during the closing ceremony of the 4th Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Accredited National Convention of Public Attorneys.
“We would be so much less of a government if we simply threw up our hands in the air, and said there is nothing more to be done,” he added.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, 576 OFWs are facing death penalty worldwide.
In February, Vice President Binay went to China on instructions of President Benigno Aquino III to appeal for a stay in the execution of three Filipinos.
Last week, Binay hand-carried to the Chinese Embassy a personal letter from the president to President Hu Jin Tao asking for clemency for another Filipino, citing humanitarian reasons. The Vice President had earlier requested another visit to Beijing to deliver President Aquino’s letter.
“There was never any question of our not respecting the laws or court decisions of China, or of our relations being adversely affected by China carrying out its death sentence,” he said.
“My effort to seek a stay of execution and a possible commutation of sentence from death to life imprisonment was, and always had been, consistent with our Christian culture and Constitution,” Binay added.
According to the Vice President, the Philippine Constitution has already abolished capital punishment while the Catechism of the Catholic Church, while not excluding the death penalty in cases of extreme gravity, urges public authority to use bloodless means of protecting public order and the safety of persons, in conformity with human dignity.
“Our service to the law and to poor deserves our very best effort, and service to the one should be interchangeable with service to the other. There should be no distinction. When you serve the law, you should simultaneously serve the poor. And there should be no limit to what you should be prepared to do to perform this service,” Binay added.
Binay also said that he is happy to hear that the Public Attorney’s Office has been attracting young and idealistic lawyers into its fold and credited the present leadership and reputation of PAO for this development.
“There was a time when PAO lawyers, probably because of the work of a few, seemed to have the not-so-good reputation of being the abogado-de-paamin,” he said.
“You no longer hear it said of PAO lawyers. On the contrary, I have heard of many instances when PAO lawyers reportedly slugged it out mano-a-mano with the prosecutors, public or private, and came out on top,” Binay added.