death penalty

Youth groups slam push for death penalty amid worsening pandemic

Loreta Arroyo
Youth groups slam push for death penalty amid worsening pandemic
'The incompetence of the Duterte administration is already a death penalty in itself,' says a unity statement led by Akbayan Youth

Youth groups and individuals from all over the Philippines denounced the push for the revival of the death penalty, especially as the country is brought to its knees by to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a unity statement led by Akbayan Youth, groups asserted how the administration’s efforts to revive the death penalty during a pandemic is “another trick to maneuver our attention away from the swell of the COVID-19 cases.” 

Heeding to the call of President Rodrigo Duterte, the House of Representatives began their debates on the return of death penalty for certain heinous crimes on Wednesday, August 5. At least 12 death penalty bills have been filed in the lower chamber after Duterte urged Congress to reinstate capital punishment for violators of the country’s anti-drugs law in his 5th State of the Nation Address.

Pro-death penalty bill legislators say that the death penalty will not only punish criminals but supposedly also deter people from committing heinous crimes. (READ: An eye for an eye: Can the death penalty bring justice to victims?)

The push for the death penalty comes as the country continues to face rapidly increasing numbers of coronavirus cases.

As of August 5, the country’s tally of COVID-19 cases has soared past 115,000. The cases are expected to continuously pile up as the daily recorded cases remain in the thousands.

“We need to save more lives, not compete with the virus in killing more Filipinos,” the youth groups said.

Ineffective punishment

Other than the “abysmal” performance in handling the pandemic, the groups also argued that death penalty’s effectiveness in deterring crime is a myth.

Citing studies done on other countries where the capital punishment is present such as in US, Singapore, and Hong Kong, the groups said the death penalty has shown no correlation in the rise and fall of crime rates.

They asserted how countries with low crime rates such as those in Scandinavia were able to keep their numbers low even without the death penalty. Youth groups emphasized how these countries were able to do so because they focused more on curtailing conditions which allow crimes to persist and strengthening their justice system to ensure likelihood of conviction.

“We should be fighting poverty itself – not the poor who are victims of a cruel, unjust social system,” the unity statement added.

The groups also highlighted that the “flawed” justice system in our country would likely enable the poor to suffer from the irreversible effects of the death penalty more than their wealthier counterparts.

The statement raised how appeals on death penalty convictions showed the majority of people sentenced to death were mistaken convictions.

It especially cited the 2004 Supreme Court (SC) decision of People v Mateo that detailed how 71.77% of death penalty verdicts handed by lower courts were erroneous.

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“The death penalty is a ploy to wage a war against the poor…In a justice system as flawed as ours, people can fall victim to mistrials and erroneous sentencing…The death penalty will only add to the killing machine that targets the most vulnerable,” the groups said.

Watch those in power

Slamming the push for the death penalty, the youth groups reiterated in their unity statement how people’s vigilance against crimes should instead be directed at those in power.

“We should be protecting Filipino families against the greedy who profit off of the pandemic, the powerful who endanger workers’ health and safety, and the paranoid who terrorize ordinary citizens for asking questions,” they said.

The youth groups emphasized how the measures put forward by the administration during the pandemic are already akin to the death penalty.

Despite widespread disapproval, the government had enacted the Anti-Terror Law in July. Experts believe this law can allow authorities to go after those who express dissent due to the measure’s overly broad definition of terrorism.

Even before the law took effect, several protesters participating in rallies have been apprehended, despite observing health protocols like physical distancing.

“The incompetence of the Duterte administration is already a death penalty in itself. Day by day, Filipinos are not only dying due to the government’s abysmal performance in protecting families, but also of hunger and desperation to return to work and school,” the group said. 

“We need to put an end to the system of governance that has done nothing but to perpetuate a culture of violence and oppression,” they added.

The unity statement has been signed by more than a hundred individuals and youth groups including Youth Resist, Adamson University Student Government, yFactPH, and We the Future PH.

Those wishing to show their opposition to the revival of the death penalty can sign Akbayan Youth’s unity statement through this link.—Rappler.com