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World Day Against Death Penalty

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Immediately upon assuming office, neophyte Senators Bong Go and Ronald De La Rosa filed proposed legislation reinstating the death penalty, along with 19 others in both Houses of Congress. This is in keeping with the order of President Duterte during his 2019 state of the nation address. Senator Manny Pacquiao said this is in line with God’s will because Jesus Christ was crucified. Many debates thence focused on the method of execution- hanging, firing squad, lethal injection.

The reimposition of death penalty is being pushed to support the war on drugs which is currently mired in scandal due to so-called ‘ninja cops’- police involved in recycling seized drugs and planting them on drug suspects, the mixed messages of President Duterte about military generals being involved in drug recycling, and the feud between the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

While legislators insist that death penalty will curb drug trafficking, President Duterte said it is simply for revenge on behalf of the families of victims of heinous, drug-fueled crimes. Meanwhile illicit drugs continue to be traded particularly in the Davao region, drug lords continue to evade justice, and the thousands of victims of extrajudicial execution have yet to be found guilty of the crimes they were killed for.

In a 2018 survey less than 50 percent of respondents supported death penalty for particular crimes. Majority of the people’s priorities still consist of livelihood, inflation, health and education. Another survey revealed that 21 percent of Filipinos (21 million) live in poverty. Deutsche Bank recently even ranked Manila among the lowest in the quality of life, income, safety, health care, traffic commute and pollution. These conditions remain the biggest factors that give rise to criminality including drug trafficking.

To date, there has been no scientific evidence of capital punishment’s deterrence to crime nor its ability to end drug trafficking. In the face of such a magnitude of corruption in law enforcement agencies waging the war on drugs, the suspicion of the involvement of the highest officials of the land and the continued trade in illegal drugs, death penalty will only set more fuel to the fire of Duterte’s failing anti-drug campaign.

In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) and United Against Torture Coalition reiterate their opposition to the reimposition of death penalty in the country.

The government’s trigger-happy solutions to complex, decades-long problems that feed widespread inequality and marginalization will only result in tyranny taking root over a desperate population. Government must do the hard work of sustainably addressing poverty as well as the work of reforming the justice system. Anything less will only replicate the horrors of the war on drugs, where the poor suffered the brunt of its execution. Death penalty will most surely victimize the poor, exempt the rich, and perpetuate the violent culture of death already permeating our society.


#EndTheAssault on the Right to Life


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