Rights body, Catholic church urge new senators to reject death penalty

Michael Joe Delizo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2019 06:47 PM | Updated as of May 18 2019 08:58 PM

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv

MANILA – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) have expressed concern that the new composition of the Senate would just become a rubber stamp for President Rodrigo Duterte’s legislative priorities, including the much-criticized revival of the death penalty. 

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III no less has said that the revival of the death penalty for those convicted of high-level drug trade seemed possible with the incoming set of senators.

Among those poised to join the chamber is former police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who has a tough stance on drug-related crimes. He was clear during his campaign that he plans to push for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

The Duterte administration has been waging a relentless war against drugs where street-level pushers and users have been caught or killed, but major busts have only netted contraband, not suspects. 

CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said the body is now preparing to counter any effort to revive the death penalty. It has already formed a coalition that would educate people about the negative impact of such measure through forums and dialogues.

In a Social Weather Stations study last year, Dumpit said 7 out of 10 Filipinos are not in favor of imposing the death penalty on a number of serious crimes.

Their voices, she said, should be recognized as enough reason not to pursue this anymore. 

“We will engage Senate, we will engage Congress as a whole at ibabahagi po namin ang lahat ng pag-aaral upang makumbinsi sila na hindi po ito ang tamang measure para ipatupad ’yung programa ng administrasyon na bawasan o sawatahin ’yung krimen sa ating bansa,” she told ABS-CBN News. 

(We will lay down all the studies to convince them that this is not the right measure to implement the program of the administration to reduce or combat criminality in our country.)

The Commissioner said prison time is the best way to reduce crimes, plus heightened police presence and equal law enforcement to promote law and order. 

Dumpit insisted it is not a matter of reaching an amicable agreement, pointing out that the Philippines is a party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolishment of the death penalty.

“The Commission on Human Rights would not want death penalty on the table. And that’s non-negotiable,” she stated.

She called on the public to stand against the death penalty. 

“Kailangan pagtibayin natin ang ating mga prinsipyo ukol sa karapatang pantao, ukol sa karapatang mabuhay ng bawat isa, at tingnan natin at suriin nating mabuti ang ating konsensya tungkol dito.”

(We have to strengthen our principles on human rights, on everyone’s right to live, and let us see and examine our conscience regarding this.)

For its part, the CBCP urged new senators to shelve proposals to reinstate the death penalty, adding that it would never be a solution to criminality.

CBCP’s Commission on Prison Pastoral Care executive secretary Rodolfo Diamante said lawmakers should work on legislation for the welfare of the people, and not to please the President. 

“We urge them to study the bills thoroughly and determine if they will really address the problems of our country,” he said. “Moreover, it is anti-life, anti-poor and will enhance only the culture of violence that is now prevailing in our country.”

In February, the House of Representatives withdrew its approval of a bill that imposes the death penalty for drug offenses.

A separate bill reviving the death penalty hurdled the House under former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez but has languished at the Senate.

The Philippines was the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty in 1987, but it was reinstated under President Fidel Ramos in response to increasing crime rates. It was abolished again under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006.