Thursday, July 18, 2019

UN experts: Philippines legally-bound to reject death penalty bill

TWO experts from the United Nations (UN) on Thursday warned lawmakers that the planned reimposition of death penalty in the country would be a "clear violation" of its obligations under a signed treaty.

In a statement, UN Special Rapporteurs Agnes Callamard (summary or arbitrary executions) and Nils Melzer (torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) said the Philippines, the first Southeast Asian country to ratify the Second Optional Protocol of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, is forbidden to reintroduce capital punishment in its justice system.

"The Philippines has an obligation to stay away from this form of punishment and cannot legally reintroduce it in its jurisdiction...State authorities have also expressly confirmed on numerous occasions its validity and binding nature on the Philippines," the experts said.

"It is inconceivable that a country which has been at the forefront of the campaign against the death penalty would restore it, in clear violation of its obligations under the protocol," they added.

On March 7, a total of 217 legislators at the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 4727 that seeks to restore death penalty. Only 54 opposed the proposed measure.

The experts likewise denounced the limited coverage of death penalty to only drug-related offenses, including import, sale, manufacture, delivery and distribution of narcotics, as well as crimes committed under the influence of dangerous drugs.

"This is clearly not permitted under international law, which requires that even States retaining the death penalty may impose it only for the most serious crimes, that is, those involving intentional killing. Drug related offences do not meet this threshold," they said.

So far, more than two-thirds of all countries or 141 States have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, the experts noted.

The death penalty was abolished in the Philippines in 2006, under the term of then-President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Arroyo voted against death penalty and was subsequently stripped of her deputy speakership on Wednesday as sanction from House leaders.

Callamard and Melzer said that the possible return of death penalty would be a setback for the Philippines, which they dubbed as a "leader" in anti-capital punishment stance in the region.

"[T]he move would constitute a departure from the country's regional leadership and global position as advocate of the abolition of the death penalty in international forums."

Aside from death penalty, Callamard has also criticized President Rodrigo Duterte over the rising death toll of drug personalities killed under his so-called "war on drugs." (SunStar Philippines)
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