Philippines 'likely to revive death penalty'

Legal expert warns that Manila will be violating an international treaty if it revives capital punishment
Philippines 'likely to revive death penalty'

Anti-death penalty advocates sign a paper that they plan to submit to the Philippine Congress. (Photo courtesy of CBCP News)

The Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte will reimpose the death penalty at all costs, warned a church official who heads an organization lobbying against the return of capital punishment.

Jesuit priest Father Silvino Borres, head of the Coalition Against Death Penalty, called on the faithful to work together to fight the "culture of death that has gripped us all."

Speaking at the National Congress Against the Death Penalty on Oct. 10, he appealed to Filipinos "to uphold the sanctity and dignity of life."

An expert on international law, meanwhile, warned that the Philippines will be violating an international treaty if it brings back capital punishment.

Prof. William Schabas said the Philippines ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1986 and its the Second Optional Protocol in 2007.

The professor of international law and human rights said that by signing the covenant, the Philippines is bound not to revive the death penalty.

He said that by ratifying the covenant, "the Philippines knew that this was a permanent commitment and that it was impossible to return."

Schabas said reviving the death penalty would mean the Philippines would be unable to enter future international treaties because it would earn a reputation globally as a country unable to abide by its word.

Father Borres noted that with the spate of drug-related killings in the country, "the likelihood that the death penalty will be reinstated is very high."

"It will be a long night for all of us. We live in dark times when life has become so cheap and devalued that it can be disregarded as trash," he said.

"I think it is important, even in the midst of darkness and even if this task becomes daunting and at times dangerous, to reaffirm our commitment to life."

At least seven bills have been filed before the Philippine Senate and 12 at the House of Representatives proposing to restore capital punishment.

Philip Alston, United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the death penalty will only punish the poor.

"Death penalty ... is a punishment that affects much more severely those who are not well off financially," he said, adding that they are the least able to defend themselves.

The House of Representatives on March 7, 2017, approved a bill that would revive the death penalty for drug-related crimes. However, the proposed law was not acted on by the Senate.

The Philippines abolished capital punishment in 1987. It was revived in 1993 as a punishment for 21 heinous crimes. In 2006, the country again abolished the death penalty.

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