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Plans to reinstate the death penalty must be abandoned

(Paris, Manila) Philippine parliamentarians must shelve proposed draft legislation aimed at reinstating the death penalty in the country’s legal system, FIDH and its member organization Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) urged today. The Philippines abolished capital punishment for all crimes in 2006.

"Legislators must resist the temptation to conclude that the restoration of the death penalty will provide an effective tool to combat crime. Their job is to ensure that new laws comply with international treaties that the Philippines has ratified."

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

On 9 November, the House of Representatives’ subcommittee on judicial reforms began discussing seven bills that seek to re-impose the death penalty for so-called ‘heinous crimes’ - a broad, unclear, and ill-defined notion, not a legal category. As of 6 September 2016, members of the Congress had introduced at least 16 bills to either repeal existing legislation that prohibited the death penalty or make a number of crimes punishable by death.

As for the executive branch, President Rodrigo Duterte, elected on 9 May 2016, has vowed to reinstate the death penalty for a wide range of crimes, with a particular focus on crimes involving drugs. Other crimes for which Duterte said the death penalty would be reinstated include rape, robbery, and kidnapping that resulted in the victims’ death.

Enacting legislation to reinstate the death penalty is inconsistent with the Philippines’ obligations under international law, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. The Philippines is a state party to both human rights instruments.

Article 6 of the ICCPR guarantees every human being’s “inherent right to life.” In addition, it prescribes that in countries that have not abolished capital punishment, the death penalty may be imposed only for the “most serious crimes,” a threshold that international jurisprudence has repeatedly stated drug-related offenses do not meet. The Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR imposes an obligation on state parties to the convention to refrain from carrying out executions. In addition, the UN Human Rights Committee has affirmed that state parties cannot denounce or withdraw from the ICCPR or its Second Optional Protocol.[1]

"In addition to promoting an atmosphere of vigilantism that has led to the unlawful killing of thousands of Filipinos in the name of the war on drugs, President Duterte’s administration has backed the reinstatement of state-sanctioned killing. It’s time for lawmakers to push back against such folly and reaffirm respect for human rights and the rule of law as the only way forward."

Rose Trajano, PAHRA Secretary-General and FIDH Vice-President

FIDH and PAHRA call on the Philippines to respect its international legal obligations by dropping the proposed bills aimed at the reintroduction of the death penalty. FIDH and PAHRA also urge the Philippines to vote in favor of the upcoming UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution – due to be voted on in December 2016 – that calls for a moratorium on executions.

FIDH, a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP), reiterates its total opposition to the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances.

Notes:

[1] UN Human Rights Committee, 61st session, General Comments Adopted by the Human Rights Committee under Article 40, Paragraph 4, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, General Comment No. 26 (61), 8 December 1997, UN Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.8/Rev.1, Para 2