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Double whammy vs human rights looms in PH

12:04 AM March 13, 2017

The House of Representatives voted last March 7 to reinstate the death penalty for serious drug-related offenses in yet another blow to the country’s deteriorating human rights situation.

If the Senate approves a similar bill as expected, and President Duterte signs a consolidated version of the House and Senate bills into law, it would be a major setback both for human rights in the Philippines and for the global campaign to abolish capital punishment.

In the past decade, the Philippines has been a regional leader in Southeast Asia in the campaign against capital punishment. In 2007 it ratified the optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty—the first in the region to do so. Since then, it has supported several United Nations resolutions reaffirming a moratorium on capital punishment around the world. Now the Philippines will have the dubious distinction of becoming the first party to the protocol to restore the death penalty.

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Reinstating the death penalty was one of Mr. Duterte’s major campaign promises and the first bill proposed by the legislature after he took office in June 2016. In December, Mr. Duterte pledged to execute six criminals a day once the death penalty is reinstated. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has threatened legislators that they would lose positions in congressional committees if they didn’t vote to bring back capital punishment.

Coupled with the Duterte administration’s brutal “war on drugs,” in which police and unidentified “vigilantes” have killed nearly 8,000 people since last July, the passage of a death penalty law would represent a double whammy against human rights in the Philippines. Not only is capital punishment an inherently cruel punishment that is invariably imposed unfairly; contrary to what Mr. Duterte and others claim, it has not been shown to deter crime. Adding a veneer of legality to the bloodbath in the Philippines will make stopping it even harder.

CARLOS H. CONDE, Philippines researcher, Human Rights Watch

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TAGS: Carlos Conde, death penalty, human rights, Inquirer letters, Inquirer Opinion, war on drugs
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