Tuesday, 4 October 2016
President Rodrigo Duterte has pushed for the re-imposition of capital punishment soon after assuming the presidency, asking his allies in Congress to pass an urgent bill on the matter for retribution against crime and as part of the war on drug abuse.
Now, there are thirteen (13) bills filed in both houses of Congress. More notable are additional three bills seeking to lower the age of criminal responsibility of children to 9 years old from the present.
The measure to revive capital punishment is devoid of both critical analysis of the roots of criminality and lasting deterrence to crime. Instead, it will formalise a cycle of violence common in a society that thinks death is the only way. And like the war on drugs, it is ineffective, costly and bound to fail.
Firstly, because crime in the Philippines is rooted in poverty and deprivation. Most crimes are aimed at getting money or goods for the perpetrator.
All the essentials to a life of dignity remain commodified and beyond the reach of most in our society.
The basic essential services and support needed by the vast majority to grow, seek opportunities, develop and uplift their economic and social conditions such as quality, free and accessible education, universal access to health services, decent work and housing and access to utilities like water, electricity and transportation were never democratized. The widening gap between the rich and poor dramatically increased vulnerabilities of the poor families to be introduced to a life of crime. Numerous studies have proven that an increase in the standard of living resulted in decreased, if not eliminated criminality among some of the more developed countries in the world today.
Secondly a competent and fair criminal justice system which guarantees credible investigation, prosecution and incarceration of criminals is highly illusory for the majority of the people.
Pervasive corruption in all levels of the justice system makes for the inaccurate determination of culpability. Courts are overburdened with cases and effective representation is seriously deficient. The practice of torture in place of solid forensic evidence-building put into doubt any testimony presented before the law. Instead of a rehabilitative environment our prison system worsens the culture of violence and male dominance.
In this case, imposing capital punishment will only punish the poor.
The House Bill reverting the minimum age of criminal responsibility from fifteen (15) years old to nine (9) years old combined with the restoration of the death penalty, both vigorously pushed by the Duterte administration, will put more and younger children at risk of being sentenced to death. The intention of House Bill 2 is to criminalize Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL), youngsters coming from the most impoverished sections of Philippine society.
Thirdly in the war on drugs where the rich and powerful drug lords have until today evaded the law, where they continue to survive and thrive over the growing pile of bodies of poor suspects who are mowed down by police and vigilante groups, how is capital punishment a solution?
The social cost of death penalty is not only felt by the immediate families of the victims and the perpetrators’ family, but society as a whole.
Death Penalty removes further opportunities for the individual to find the truth behind his or her actions, ends opportunities to explore the anatomy of a particular crime, irreversibly takes away a second chance in cases of wrongful conviction, and destroys the fabric of society’s highest valuation of the dignity of life.
Death penalty worsens the social costs and damage of the crime by adding new pain and injury to the innocent loved ones of the convicts. Amidst overwhelming evidence that it does not deter crime, death penalty does nothing more than teach violence to answer violence.
iDEFEND asserts that the reintroduction of death penalty is a defective and deceptive approach to criminality. It serves only the President’s predilections for quick fixes. There is no short cut to crime prevention.
Globally countries enforcing capital punishment are steadily declining as a result of a growing realisation of its failure to curb crime. The lack of opportunities and personal security, chronic poverty and the deprivation of the right to education are the origins of crime, not the absence of the death penalty.
iDEFEND proposes instead that President Duterte’s government make meaningful use of our taxes by adhering to our international obligations as party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and related human rights instruments, upholding the Constitutional guarantees on the Right to Life, and undertaking the painstaking work towards sustainable development and human security for all.
Particularly, iDEFEND calls on President Duterte to employ a productive and prudent approach to restitution, recompense, restoration, repentance and reformation:
Review and reform the criminal justice system and root out corruption in the prosecution service, courts, the BJMP and the BUCOR as soon as possible with the view of making the whole system prompt and efficient in dispensing justice and reforming persons.
Institute complaints mechanisms widely accessible to ordinary Filipinos so that corruption, criminal involvement of public authorities, violations to the rule of law and due process can be promptly reported to relevant institutions.
Professionalize and enforce respect for the rule of law and human rights standards by the PNP, NBI and other law enforcement agencies and rid their ranks of those involved in corruption and syndicated crime.
Strengthen the Forensic expertise of Philippine investigative agencies to increasing certainty of crime accountability and accuracy of culpability determination.
Invest in the realization of a life of dignity for all.
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity (iDEFEND) is a grassroots movement that defends the rights and upholds the dignity of all Filipinos. It engages with the government, educate and organize the public and transform collective voices into public action. iDEFEND works towards the realization of a rights-based governance that is anchored on respect for due process and rule of law.
For more details pls contact:
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
Tel/fax (632) 436-26-33
Mobile : 0917-308-2409