Duterte bats for revival of death penalty even as pandemic continues to grip PH

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 27 2020 05:44 PM | Updated as of Jul 27 2020 08:11 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte gives his 5th State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives on July 27, 2020. Screengrab from RTVM

MANILA (UPDATE) -- With two years left in power and even as the country still grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday renewed his push for the reimposition of death penalty in the country for crimes related to illegal drugs.

Duterte, during his penultimate State of the Nation Address, asked Congress to reinstate death penalty by lethal injection as he continues to wage his administration's war on drugs.

"I reiterate the swift passage of a law reviving death penalty by lethal injection for crimes specified under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002," Duterte said.

When his proposal was met with silence, the President quipped: "I did not hear enough clapping, so I presumed that they are not interested."

Duterte, who enjoys the majority support in Congress, has asked for the passage of a law reviving the capital punishment for drug-related crimes even in his previous SONAs.

The 75-year-old tough-talking leader has been hoping to reinstate the death penalty in the predominantly Catholic country. Passed in 2006 during the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Republic Act 9346 abolished the imposition of death penalty.

"This law will not only help us deter criminality but will also save our children from the dangers posed by the illegal and dangerous drugs," Duterte said.

The Commission on Human Rights thumbed down Duterte's call, saying it would be a breach of international law as the Philippines is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

"We believe in the need for a comprehensive approach in addressing drug sale and use, as well as all other crimes, anchored on restorative justice instead of merely imposing punishments without regard for human lives and human rights," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.

"We too believe that crimes must be punished. But the call for justice should not result in further violations of human rights, especially the right to life," she added.

In 1993, then-President Fidel Ramos signed Republic Act 7659 allowing the death penalty in the Philippines.

Another law, Republic Act 8177, specifically designated lethal injection as the mode of carrying out capital punishment. This was imposed in 1999 by then-President Joseph Estrada, followed by a moratorium until the passage of RA 9346.

Amnesty International said the death penalty is not only cruel, inhumane, and mostly affects those living in poverty, it does not also work as an effective way to deter people from committing crime.