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Press Statement: On the occasion of the 15th World Day Against the Death Penalty

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

On October 10, In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) marks World Day Against the Death Penalty. The Philippines is poised to re-introduce the death penalty after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of House Bill 4724 earlier this year. Capital punishment was twice abolished- via the 1987 Constitution, and by an implementing law under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. However government continues to justify its re-introduction as a counter-crime measure, with the President touting it as retribution on behalf of families of victims of violent crime. House Speaker Pantaleon Alverez spoke of the draft bill as “judicial killing”, offering it as alternative to the much criticized extrajudicial killing of suspected drug traffickers.

iDEFEND has vigorously opposed death penalty as an abusive, expensive, unjust, highly discriminatory and ineffective measure to curb crime and drug trafficking. It reiterated that the same state apparatus and machinery that executes the Philippines’ brutal drug war which has resulted in over 12,000 poor Filipinos killed, is the same machinery that will enforce the death penalty: a corrupt and incompetent national police force, corrupt and grossly ineffective justice system, and a bloodthirsty President from whom all kill polices are issued.

iDEFEND spokesperson Ms. Nilda Lagman-Sevilla stressed that the reintroduction of death penalty in the Philippines impacts directly on the poor majority, whose inability to access justice, overcome socio-economic and political discrimination and avail of critical social services puts them in conflict with the law every day. “As a country registering the worst impunity level in the world[1] its poor becomes an easy target for crime and corruption, yet they will not have the means to effective legal aid nor ensure a fair trial.”

This year’s commemoration of World Day Against Death Penalty highlights the lethal combination of justice systems and poverty. In Southeast Asia, especially in the Philippines, this is a glaring reality. iDEFEND asserts that death penalty was never a solution to criminality; it violates the country’s international human rights obligations and poses more danger under an existing martial law in Mindanao island.

Comprehensive reform in the justice system, an aggressive public health approach to the drugs issue, social justice and human rights based governance are our best bet against criminality. iDEFEND calls on the Senate to reject the draft bill and repudiate capital punishment once and for all.

[1] Business World online;