Reject attempts to reintroduce death penalty in Philippines

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Graphic: amnestyusa.org

The Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan) is shocked that the Philippines seems adamant about moving forward with plans to re-introduce the death penalty. The death penalty has been suspended since 2006, and Philippines is now considered an abolitionist country.

On 28 July 2016, the newly convened Philippine Congress heard a proposal to re-impose the death penalty for “heinous crimes”, giving priority to President Rodrigo Duterte’s push for capital punishment in its first legislative session.

Since late June 2016, House Bill No. 1 and several other bills seeking to re-introduce the death penalty have been filed for consideration of the Philippines Congress. These bills seeks to reimpose capital punishment for human trafficking, illegal recruitment, plunder, treason, parricide, infanticide, rape, qualified piracy, bribery, kidnapping, illegal detention, robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons, car theft, destructive arson, terrorism and drug-related cases.

Adpan is hopeful that Filipinos and lawmakers that are abolitionist will prevail, and the death penalty will not be reintroduced in this Asean nation.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said the measure is anti-poor and that the death penalty has not been proven to deter heinous crimes.

“What deters the commission of crimes are certainty of apprehension, speedy prosecution and inevitable conviction once warranted,… The death penalty is anti-poor because indigent and marginalised accused cannot afford the high cost of [top] calibre and influential lawyers to secure their acquittal.”

Senator Leila de Lima, who continues to oppose the death penalty, is proposing a law to impose “qualified reclusion perpetua” for those found guilty of heinous crimes. Those punished with “qualified reclusion perpetua” would not be eligible for parole at all.

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Reintroduction of death penalty a violation of International law

The Philippines signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 19 December 1966 and ratified it on 23 October 1986.

It signed the Second Optional Protocol on 20 September 2006 which explicitly forbids states who have ratified it from conducting executions within their respective jurisdictions: “No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed.”

However, it provides for one exception: countries who expressed reservations only during the time of ratification or accession may resort to the death penalty in times of war for those convicted of “a most serious crime of a military nature committed during wartime”.

The Philippines cannot claim the exception because it did not make this reservation when it ratified the Second Optional Protocol.

As such, the re-introduction of the death penalty would also be considered a violation of international law.

Reimposition of death penalty proven an ineffective solution to fight crime

Adpan joins Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, in urging the Philippines “to remember the experience of Mongolia, which first abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes in the 1950s, then reintroduced it, before deciding, last December, to once again stop executing people.

“In reaching the decision, President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj said the people of Mongolia had suffered enough from the death penalty. In his words: ‘Removing the death penalty does not mean removing punishment. Criminals fear justice, and justice must be imminent and unavoidable. But we cannot repair one death with another.'”

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The UN high commissioner for human rights, added, “Fear, despair and frustration clearly prevail among all Filipinos amid a rise in crime and drug-related offences. But it is the duty of political leaders to adopt solutions to the country’s challenges in ways that will support the rule of law and advance the protection of human rights…The arguments are convincing and decisive: on every level—from principle to practice—use of the death penalty is wrong.

Death penalty ineffective; high risk of irreparable miscarriage of justice

Adpan reiterates that there is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime. As an example, in Malaysia in 2012, despite the existence of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, it was revealed in Parliament that there was in fact an increase in the number of people arrested for drug trafficking.

The possibility of miscarriage or failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable.

There has just been too many cases of people who have languished on death row for decades only to be released later. We recall that in January 2011, Taiwan’s ministry of justice admitted that Chiang Kuo-ching, a private in the air force, had been executed in error in 1997 for a murder committed 15 years previously.

The global trend has been towards abolition. The Philippines did us proud when it abolished the death penalty in 2006. It is hoped that the Philippines will reaffirm its commitment to abolition when it stands strong and rejects attempts to reintroduce the draconian death penalty.

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Adpan urges Philippine lawmakers to oppose attempts to bring back the death penalty.

Charles Hector issued this for and on behalf of the the Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan).

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