Block return of death penalty in PH – Human Rights Watch

Jee Y. Geronimo
Block return of death penalty in PH – Human Rights Watch
'The failure of the death penalty as a crime deterrent is globally recognized and the government should maintain the prohibition on its use,' says Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phelim Kine

MANILA, Philippines – Another human rights group called on Philippine lawmakers to reject the proposed revival of the death penalty in the country.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Saturday, December 3, urged the Philippine government to acknowledge death penalty’s “barbarity.”

“The failure of the death penalty as a crime deterrent is globally recognized and the government should maintain the prohibition on its use,” HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said in a statement.

The call comes days after the justice panel’s subcommittee on judicial reforms of the House of Representatives approved House Bill 1, which seeks to reimpose capital punishment for all heinous crimes. (READ: Minority accuses House panel of rushing death penalty bills)

The death penalty was abolished in 1986 when President Corazon Aquino took over the reins of power from Ferdinand Marcos. It was reintroduced by President Fidel Ramos in 1993, then suspended again in 2006.

HRW joins other groups such as Amnesty International and the International Drug Policy Consortium in opposing the revival of the death penalty in the Philippines.

On Saturday, HRW said the alleged deterrent effect of the death penalty “has been repeatedly debunked.”

The group said it rejects death penalty “in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty.”

In addition, HRW pointed out that reviving the death penalty would be a violation of the Philippines’ international legal obligations.

This includes the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that “no one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed” and that “each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.”

The Philippines signed the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR in 2006 and ratified it in 2007. (READ: Lawyers’ group opposes death penalty, ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy)

Drug-related offenses

But as early as his first month in office, President Rodrigo Duterte had already asked lawmakers to revive the death penalty, especially for drug traffickers. 

In its statement on Saturday, HRW said that where death penalty is permitted, human rights law limits it to “the most serious crimes” typically those resulting in death or serious bodily harm.

According to the group, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee and the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions already concluded that the death penalty for drug offenses fails to meet the condition of “most serious crime.”

HRW also noted the many instances international organizations urged countries to prohibit the use of death penalty for drug-related offenses:

  • In a March 2010 report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime urged countries to take an overall “human rights-based approach to drug and crime control.”
  • In its 2014 report, the International Narcotics Control Board encouraged countries to abolish the death penalty for drug offenses.
  • In September 2015, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reaffirmed that “persons convicted of drug-related offenses…should not be subject to the death penalty.”

“Reinstatement of the death penalty won’t solve any drug-related societal problems that Congress House Bill No. 1 seeks to address,” Kine said.

He added: “It will only add to the already horrific death toll that President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ has inflicted on Filipinos since he took office on June 30.”

From July 1 to December 1, the Duterte administration’s campaign against drugs has already seen at least 5,845 personalities killed both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings. –

Photo of lethal injection from Shutterstock

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.