A Commission on Human Rights official on Wednesday said the President’s call for the reimposition of death penalty was baseless.
At a virtual hearing conducted by the House committee on justice chaired by Rep. Vicente Veloso of Leyte, Commissioner Karen Dumpit of the CHR cited Article III, Section 19 of the 1987 Constitution which provides that death penalty should not be imposed as a punishment “unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it.”
“The Constitution says for compelling reasons, and it is our position that there is no compelling reason to reintroduce the death penalty,” she told legislators.
Veloso was quick to say that “it is for Congress to appreciate these compelling reasons and for the President to veto or approve whatever Congress will pass.”
Veloso conducted the hearing on 12 pending bills on death penalty just over a week after President Duterte asked Congress to work on the revival of capital punishment during his 5th State of the Nation Address.
Reps. Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte and Bienvenido Abante, Jr. supported the reimposition of capital punishment.
“I am for death penalty no matter who our president is. I believe this is the only penalty that would bring shivers to the bones of the evildoers,” Barbers said in his remarks at the committee meeting. “[This is] the only deterrent to the commission of heinous crimes, the only thing that even the most hardened criminals fear,” he added.
Abante, the House minority leader and senior pastor at the Metropolitan Bible Baptist Ekklesia, echoed Barbers’ support for death penalty. He said that the death penalty “proceeds from justice, not rehabilitation, in behalf of the State and innocent victims,” and is a “fair administration of justice.”
He also said he believes that death penalty is “not cruel neither costly,” if going by the suggestion of the President of lethal injection; it “not immoral” as well, saying that God himself instituted death penalty for the crimes of murder, parricide, kidnapping, cursing of parents, and adultery, as stated in many verses in the Bible.
As far as the the CHR is concerned, Dumpit said heinous crimes as defined in the provision in the Constitution is the “most serious of crimes.”
“In the most serious of crimes in international law, if you will have a listing of that, drugs is not found on the list. So we believe there is no compelling reason to impose the death penalty,” she said.
Dumpit also cited the country’s several treaties with other countries, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR that do not allow the reimposition of death penalty.
“If we go ahead and reimpose death penalty, we will be found to be in serious breach of international law,” Dumpit said.
“It is a state obligation to be able to comply with the human rights treaties that we have acceded to or we have ratified,” she added.
Dumpit also warned against the revival of death penalty in the country, particularly on overseas Filipino workers currently on death row in other countries. “If death penalty is reinstated, the ability of the Department of Foreign Affairs to negotiate in behalf of our OFWs will be undermined,” she said. “Moreover, our country will be considered as hypocritical if we will impose death penalty and at the same time, seek the lives of our OFWs who are in death row abroad,” she added.