CHR: Approving death penalty 'blatant breach of international law'
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights slammed the approval of the death penalty bill by the House of Representatives, reiterating that the proposed revival of capital punishment would violate international treaties.
In a statement late Tuesday, March 7, the CHR said the Philippine government can neither withdraw from the treaties nor use constitutional provisions "as arguments against the validity or interpretation of those treaties."
"In view of the absolute nature of these treaties, the enactment of the current legislative measure is a blatant breach of international law and constitutes an internationally wrongful act subject to international responsibility," said the CHR.
The commission also pointed out that the crimes covered under House Bill Number 4727 – all drug-related offenses – are not considered "the most serious crimes" defined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Philippines ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR back in 2007.
"The 'most serious crimes' shall be read restrictively and shall be limited to the crimes that, as qualified by the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the United Nations Economic and Social Council, 'do not go beyond intentional crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences,'" said the CHR. "Jurisprudence on most serious crimes do not include narcotics crimes."
The death penalty bill is a priority measure of President Rodrigo Duterte, who believes capital punishment is a form of retribution. Malacañang has hailed the House's move, saying it would boost the war on drugs. (READ: Duterte 'thankful' House passed death penalty bill – Alvarez)
More than 7,000 people have been killed in the Duterte administration's war on drugs since July 1, 2016, from police operations and vigilante-style killings.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the House's approval of the death penalty bill as "another blow to the country's deteriorating human rights situation."
"Not only is capital punishment an inherently cruel punishment that is invariably imposed unfairly, but – contrary to what Duterte and others claim – it has not been shown to deter crime. Adding a veneer of legality to the bloodbath in the Philippines will make stopping it even harder," said Carlos Conde, Philippine researcher of HRW's Asia division.
"The passage of this law would represent a double whammy against human rights in the Philippines," he also said. "Now the Philippines will have the dubious distinction of becoming the first party to the [Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR] to restore the death penalty."
A total of 217 lawmakers voted in favor of the measure while 54 voted against it and 1 abstained. A total of 272 out of 293 congressmen were present in the voting. 21 lawmakers were absent. (READ: LIST: How congressmen and women voted on the death penalty bill)
The measure now goes to the Senate, where Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the vote could go either way. (READ: CBCP on death penalty vote: We shall not be silenced) – Rappler.com