PH to become int’l ‘lawbreaker’ if death penalty revived: expert

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 11 2019 01:21 PM | Updated as of Oct 12 2019 11:26 AM

MANILA — The Philippines will go against its treaty obligations and be regarded as a “lawbreaker” among its peers should it revive the death penalty, an international criminal law scholar said Thursday.

The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does not allow state parties such as the Philippines to leave, professor William Schabas told a forum marking the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

The treaty, ratified by the Philippines in 2007, binds signatories to an “international commitment to abolish the death penalty.”

“I hope that reason will prevail,” Schabas said, “because of the general harm it would do to your country by ultimately making the Philippines an international lawbreaker, an international outlaw that does not respect the commitments it has made.”

“The Philippines knew that this was a permanent commitment.”

At least 19 bills resurrecting the death penalty have been filed in Congress, measures earlier sought by President Rodrigo Duterte to aid his brutal drug war, which has killed more than 5,500 suspects based official government figures.

Others were killed vigilante-style usually by masked men on motorcycles.


Philip Alston, a United Nations special rapporteur who investigated extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in the past, described such mode of killing as “informal” death penalty.

“The phenomenon is not so different from what I saw when I visited Davao in 2007 where the death squads operating there were also engaging in these forms of social cleansing,” he told the forum.

Alston described “these sorts of uncontrolled campaigns against any particular group” as a “war on the poor.”

“You can count the number of people who have been killed who turn out to have been members of the political elite, members of the business elite, or others who are well-off and well-connected,” he said.

Alston recalled how “lethal force” exerted by police or military on drug suspects was abused in other countries, with, say, neighbors finding ways to land their enemies on a list to be “executed” later on.

“It become a completely arbitrary way of settling a whole array of grievances and not just fails to address the serious drug problem, but marks a real decline in any sort of respect for the rule of law,” he said.