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Reject the Reimposition of the Death Penalty; end the culture of violence and impunity

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Congress’ priority legislation is reinstating Capital Punishment in the country. The bill was railroaded through the House Committee on Justice last December and will be debated at the plenary sessions this week. International legal experts, human rights advocates and church leaders vowed to oppose the bill, saying it was abandoned in 1987 and 2006 for a reason: death penalty never solved the country’s problem with criminality.

The death penalty bill shares some flaws with the government’s on-going campaign against drugs:

Like the war on drugs, the death penalty bill has no reliable baseline and statistics on the crime rate.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s study[1] on the numbers exposed several fluctuations due to the system of reporting and recording inconsistencies, not the actual number of crimes committed. With no standard reporting and documentation system we have no credible data linking death penalty to the actual reduction of crime. What the legislators will play up on the debate on the plenary sessions are simply sensationalised views and the fear-mongering of their peers.

Like the war on drugs which was executed by a corrupt, incompetent, and rogue police force, the death penalty will be implemented by grossly inefficient judges and justices, corrupt lawyers, and a highly irregular and problematic judicial system.

In 2004, the Philippine Supreme Court found that judicial error in handing out death penalty was at an alarming 71.77%[2]. The Supreme Court overturned capital punishment convictions of 651 out of 907 appeals at the time. This means 7 out of 10 death penalty decisions were wrong.

Around the world, there is no conclusive evidence that capital punishment deters crime. In fact, 88% of criminologists in the University of Colorado say the same.

Like the war on drugs which refused to address the social and economic roots of crime and drug abuse, the death penalty will victimise mostly the poor. Our court processes are long, tedious, and expensive.

Similar to the case of OFW Jakatia Pawa who was used as a scapegoat in the killing of her employer’s daughter, the poor will be at the mercy of the powerful.

Majority of the defendants will be unable to afford a decent legal defense, while rich defendants will buy their way to freedom. Indeed how many politicians have faced the bar of justice escaped incarceration and now returned to their former political “glory”?

Numerous studies point to the direct link between the incidence of poverty, wealth inequality and crime rate, and this is evidenced by the poorest regions of the country also registering the highest crime rates.

Death penalty does not provide a solution, only a permanent cycle of violence and death among the country’s most desperate population. Women and children’s groups assert that rape victims are deterred from reporting as the majority know their perpetrators and fear that the latter’s death will be their burden.

Overwhelmed by the culture of impunity where those tasked to serve and protect are the ones violating the rights of the ones they are supposedly ‘serving and protecting’ people are increasingly hesitant in cooperating with law enforcement and judicial authorities for fear of reprisal, mismanagement of justice and certain that the real criminals will escape justice.

The finality of both the death penalty and extrajudicial killings means the state will have no recourse for corrective action and no second chances for the suspects and the convicted.

Against such inferior conditions in Philippine society iDEFEND appeals to Congress to reject House Bill No. 4727.

We call on the House of Representatives not to establish death as their first legacy to the Filipino people. More urgent than responding to perceived crises in our society the legislature should act first on the crises and decay within the government itself.

[1] Looking at the numbers behind the Death Penalty

[2] People vs. Mateo (G.R. Nos. 147678-87, July 7, 2004, 433 SCRA 640)