The adoption of a draft law by the Philippine House of Representatives to revive the death penalty sets the country on a dangerous path in flagrant violation of its international legal obligations, Amnesty International said today.
“The idea that the death penalty will rid the country of drugs is simply wrong. The resumption of executions will not rid the Philippines of problems associated with drugs or deter crime. It is an inhumane, ineffective punishment and is never the solution. The Philippines’ attempts to reintroduce it are clearly unlawful. This will just earn the country notoriety as one of the few countries to revive its horrific use,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Today, the House of Representatives of the Philippines adopted on its third and final reading of House Bill 4727, a measure put forward by President Duterte’s majority coalition to reintroduce the death penalty.
The proposal was passed with 216 votes in favour, 54 against and one abstention. The Speaker of the House openly threatened to strip members of Congress of key positions if they dared to vote against the bill, or even abstain from voting. The bill will now go to the Senate.
“The Senate is now the Philippines’ last real hope of upholding its international obligations and rescuing the country from this backwards step,” said Champa Patel.
The draft law has been passed at a time when the country is reeling from a wave of more than 8,000 deaths, many of them through extrajudicial executions in its “war on drugs” since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power on 30 June 2016.
Amnesty International is opposed to the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances. Under international law, the death penalty must be restricted to most serious crimes, and drug related crimes do not meet this threshold. There is also no evidence to show that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect.
“The death penalty for alleged drug offenders, like extrajudicial executions, violates international law, deprives people of the right to life, and disproportionately targets the poor,” said Champa Patel.
In 2007 the Philippines ratified an international treaty that categorically prohibits executions and commits the country to the abolition of the death penalty. Legally, this obligation cannot be withdrawn at any time.
Since the death penalty was abolished in 2006, the Philippines has been a strong advocate against capital punishment and has championed several initiatives to this end in international forums. It has also worked to commute the death sentences imposed on Filipino nationals abroad, such as overseas workers.
“If the Philippines authorities want to deal with the root causes of drug-related offences, they should support humane, voluntary, health-focused and evidence-based policies as an alternative,” said Champa Patel.
House Bill 4727 is a consolidated version of several proposals adopted by the Sub-Committee on Judicial Reforms of the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives on 29 November 2016.
As of today, 141 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice; in the Asia Pacific region, 19 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and a further eight are abolitionist in practice. The new Criminal Code of Mongolia abolishing the death penalty for all crimes will become effective in July 2017.