An international human rights advocate on Saturday urged the House of Representatives to reject a proposal reinstating the death penalty for heinous crimes, including drug-related crimes.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said the death penalty will not solve any drug-related societal problems, and that it would also violate the Philippines’ international legal obligations.
“The Philippine government should acknowledge the death penalty’s barbarity and reject any moves to reinstate it,” Kine said. “We urge all members of the House of Representatives and Senate to uphold the right to life enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.”
There is no need to reinstate the death penalty, Kine said, stressing that it has been repeatedly debunked by previous administrations.
“The failure of the death penalty as a crime deterrent is globally recognized and the government should maintain the prohibition on its use,” Kine added.
On Tuesday, the subcommittee on judicial reforms under the House justice panel approved the substitute bill on House Bill No. 1 filed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and other lawmakers.
The proposed measure seeks to revive the death penalty for individuals who are convicted of heinous crimes such as treason, murder, rape, robbery with violence, arson, plunder, and importation of illegal drugs.
Alvarez expressed confidence that the bill will be approved by the House by Christmas.
President Rodrigo Duterte initiated the revival of the death penalty as a measure to fight illegal drugs. The bill proposes executing a convicted criminal through hanging, firing squad, or lethal injection.
But Kine and other human rights advocates have rejected the bill, stressing that the death penalty’s revival will not solve the country’s drug problem.
He cited a report from the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions that the death penalty for drug offenses has failed to meet the condition of “most serious crime.”
In September 2015, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reaffirmed that “persons convicted of drug-related offenses... should not be subject to the death penalty.”
“Reinstatement of the death penalty won’t solve any drug-related societal problems that Congress House Bill No. 1 seeks to address. It will only add to the already horrific death toll that President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs has inflicted on Filipino since he took office on June 30,” Kine said.
In a joint letter drafted by the International Drug Policy Consortium, a network of non-governmental organizations that focuses on issues related to drug production, trafficking, and use, human rights advocates also urged lawmakers to “ensure proportionate sentencing of drug offenses to protect the vulnerable, and invest in harm reduction approaches to protect the health and wellbeing of the Filipino people.”
The Philippines is also party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR on the abolition of the death penalty.
The Philippine government abolished the death penalty under Article III, Section 19 of the 1987 Constitution. President Fidel Ramos reimposed the death penalty in 1993 as a “crime control” measure, but President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo suspended it again in 2006.
The alleged deterrent effect of the death penalty “has been repeatedly debunked,” the group Human Rights Watch said.
On March 4, 2015, Ivan Simonovic, the United Nations assistant secretary-general for human rights, said there was “no evidence that the death penalty deters any crime.”
Even with respect to murder, an Oxford University analysis concluded that capital punishment does not deter murder “to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment.”
“Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty,” Kine said.
He said reviving the death penalty would violate the Philippines’ international legal obligations, where it ordered signatories that “no one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed” and that “each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.