Leni, AI tell gov't: Death penalty to break PH int'l commitments

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2016 06:38 PM

MANILA – The government cannot impose the death penalty without breaking its international commitments, Vice President Leni Robredo and a human rights group separately said on Thursday.

There are not enough evidence or studies to prove the effectivity of the death penalty in curbing crime, and lawmakers were also unable to answer this question, Robredo said in a statement questioning how the proposed law passed the House committee on justice.

“Maliban dito, tila nakalimutan na ng ilang miyembro ng Committee on Justice na pumirma ang ating bansa sa Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights na pinagbabawalan ang ating bansang ibalik ang death penalty," Robredo said.

In a press conference, Amnesty International Chairperson Ritzlee Santos III said the protocol mentioned by Robredo has no exit clause, meaning no party can back out of the agreement.

If the Philippines goes back on its word, its sincerity in keeping international commitments will be put into question, Santos said.

This was seconded by Senator Risa Hontiveros, who said that the revival of the death penalty would be a “step backwards” for the Philippines, considering it is being abolished in countries around the world.

She added that the restoration of the death penalty can go against efforts to rehabilitate drug abusers, since they are going to be executed anyway.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Dinagat Islands Representative Kaka Bag-ao, meanwhile, said it will be “embarrassing and maybe even unconstitutional” to revive the death penalty, because the constitution requires the government to honor international agreements.

"I find it ridiculous that proponents of the reimposition of the death penalty are trying to frame their arguments as a choice between extrajudicial killings and death penalty, which they refer to as judicial killings. We want neither. We are against all forms of killings, no matter how they package it," Bag-ao said.

However, critics of the death penalty, particularly Robredo, may have forgotten that the Constitution allows the imposition of the death penalty for major crimes, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said in a text message.

“Ang ating Saligang Batas ay higit na makapangyarihan laban sa anumang international protocol…ang dahilan kung bakit ang death penalty ay hindi nagtagumpay ay sa dahil sa nagkulang ng political will ang mga nakaupong pangulo sa mga panahon na iyon,” said Alvarez, who had wanted the House to approve the death penalty bill before Christmas.

On Wednesday afternoon, Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas told the media that about 50 percent of the more than 200 congressmen who attended the supermajority caucus favored the restoration of the death penalty, and it could gather more support if it is limited to illegal drugs. 

About 35 percent were undecided, and 15 percent were against it, Farinas said. Debates at the plenary could start next Tuesday and last a month before it goes to a vote.

The Philippines acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2007, a year after the Arroyo administration abolished the death penalty. 

According to Amnesty International, at least 102 countries which previously imposed the death penalty abolished it as of 2015. Fiji, Madagascar, the Republic of Congo, and Suriname abolished the death penalty for all crimes last year.

Most executions, the rights advocacy group said, took place in China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the US.