ASEAN parliamentarians urge Duterte: Reject death penalty

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2017 03:46 PM | Updated as of Feb 15 2017 04:40 PM

Parliamentarians from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday urged Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies at the House of Representatives to reject the re-imposition of the death penalty in the country, and to respect the Philippines' international obligations and standing in the ASEAN as a regional leader in human rights protection.

Instead of bringing back the death penalty, the Philippines and ASEAN should think about reforms, preventive measures, and rehabilitation, as ways of deterring crimes instead of the old "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" doctrine, Cambodia Rep. Mu Sochua, Battambang Representative of the National Assembly of Cambodia, said.

"Killing, in whatever form, is a form of violence. Death penalty is the extreme form of violence," Sochua said.

Malaysia, a nation that still imposes capital punishment, still gets opposition from its legislators lobbying for the abolition of the punishment that has been labeled as anti-poor.

Malaysian Batukawan Representative Kasthuri Patto of the Parliament of Malaysia said most victims, if not all, of capital punishment in Malaysia are the poor.

"The ones who are normally victims of this are the marginalized, the poor. Members of the opposition have been lobbying to push for the abolition, particularly in drug trafficking," Patto said.

"Of the 1,000 people who are in death row, 600 are foreigners," Patto added.

She added that the Malaysian government has already put up a committee that will look into the methods of the death penalty.

The Philippines, represented by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, argued that there is consensus worldwide that the death penalty is not an effective means of combating crime, including illegal drugs.

"Iran has had the death penalty since 1959 and yet they admitted the death penalty did not solve their drug problem," she said. 

"Singapore and Hongkong...Hongkong has no death penalty, Singapore does, but they have the same crime rate," Hontiveros added. 

The ASEAN Parliamentarians also reminded the Duterte administration about the country's international obligations. 

The Philippines formally abolished capital punishment in 2006 and ratified in 2007 the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) aimed at the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. 

"We have always been inspired by your people power movement, democracy. We want to continue to put you in that high platform, to play that role to protect fundamental rights for our people," Sochua said.

"The Philippines must commit to its true self of being a righteous nation, a nation of faith, a nation that is looked upon," Patto said.

The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said that since the Philippines abolished capital punishment in 2006, it has inspired other countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam to restrict the use of the death penalty, which denotes positive regional progress in the move toward abolition.