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Regional lawmakers urge Philippine MPs to oppose re-introduction of the death penalty

As debates on the death penalty begin in the House of Representatives today, Southeast Asian parliamentarians urgently called upon members of the Philippine Congress to strongly oppose efforts aimed at reintroducing capital punishment in the country.

(Source: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights) 

“When considering bringing back the death penalty, Philippine lawmakers must remember that it is an inhumane and ineffective punishment, and reinstating it will be in total violation of the Philippines’ human rights obligations,” said Charles Santiago, a Malaysian member of parliament (MP) and chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). 

“Instead of finding new ways of adding to the long list of casualties of the drug war, the Philippine government should focus its efforts on tackling the root causes of crime and drug use. This starts with ending impunity for police violence, strengthening the criminal justice system, and developing health-focused based policies,” Santiago said.  

In the current 18th Congress, about 13 death-penalty-related bills have been filed in the House of Representatives, while 11 are pending at the Senate. According to a news report, the Committee on Justice in the House of Representatives is scheduled to discuss some of the bills this week. Many of them are proposing the death penalty for certain crimes, including drug-related offences, murder, rape, kidnapping, and treason.

It is also concerning that discussions on such an important issue are being prioritised as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the number of new cases continues to increase, APHR said. 

The hearings come after President Rodrigo Duterte recently renewed his call during his annual speech at the State of the Nation Address, urging Congress to pass legislation to revive capital punishment as part of efforts to reduce crime rates.

“Studies have shown that there is no link between capital punishment and any deterrent effect on crime. Rather, those that will be impacted most heavily will, once again, be the poor or underprivileged who cannot afford legal representation to protect their rights,” added Santiago.

Such a move would also be in total departure from the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty, APHR said. The most recent 2018 resolution of the UN General Assembly on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty was adopted by a record 120 countries. 

The Philippines abolished the death penalty a first time in 1987 and then again in 2006 after it was reinstated in 1993. The country is also a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Second Optional Protocol aimed at the abolition of the death penalty.