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Human rights groups march, ask Congress to junk death penalty bill

MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of human rights advocates gathered at the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon, January 31, to urge lawmakers to abandon the measure seeking to restore the death penalty in the country.

House Bill 1, filed by no less than House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, is a pet bill of President Rodrigo Duterte, who won the last elections with the campaign promise of eliminating drugs and criminality nationwide. (READ: An eye for an eye: Can the death penalty bring justice to victims?

On Tuesday, protesters led by the group iDefend gathered in front of the South Gate of the Batasan Complex, then marched toward the North Gate to enter the House premises. More than 250 of them sat in the plenary session, where the measure was scheduled for debates.

Past 4 pm, the House announced that the debates would be moved to Wednesday. 

"We call on the House of Representatives not to establish death as their first legacy [for] the Filipino people. More urgent than a corrupt, incompetent and rogue police force, the death penalty will be implemented by a grossly inefficient and highly erroneous judicial system," said iDefend in its statement. (READ: Death penalty bill hurdles House committee

Here are some sentiments from the advocates who joined the protest:

Ellecer Carlos, iDefend spokesperson

"Kailangan tugunan ng administrasyon na ito ang hindi natugunan ng ibang administrasyon matapos ni [Corazon] Aquino – iyong mga pangunahing pangangailangan para maka-alpas sa kahirapan: iyong karapatan sa edukasyon, karapatan sa kalusugan, sapat at masustansyang pagkain, at syempre iyong kabuhayan sa Pilipinas; right to decent work. Ito ang dapat tinutugunan din ang Kamara."

(What this adminstration needs to address is what the administrations after [Corazon] Aquino failed to address. These are the basic requirements to escape poverty: the right to education; right to health; enough and nutritious food and, of course, livelihood in the Philippines; righ to decent work. These are what the House should also address.)



Sister Marilen Oliva, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary

"Who will be affected? it will just be the poor. You know, those in the gated subdivisions, gated villages, they will not die [through death penalty]. I don't think they will do that. It will always be those coming from the shanties, coming from the lower middle class or class C and D, E."





John Din, Justice and Peace Missionary Society of Saint Columban

"When [lawmakers] do the debates, they [should] get info from the statistics, from science, about death penalty because [we cannot] just make laws according to our own perceptions. There has to be some sense [that's] in touch with realities and that's where statistics are important."






Rody Tuvera, former political detainee

"Hindi ito kalutasan doon sa sinasabing paglutas ng krimen o kahirapan. Hindi iyon ang tugon, lalung-lalo na sa mga katulad namin na mga political prisoners, sila ay mahahatulan ng bitay. [Ang iba], hindi naman sila mahatulan at hulihin dahil hindi naman sila nakikibaka para sa kanilang kalayaan at karapatan."

(This is not the answer to the problems of crime and poverty. This is not the answer to that, especially when it comes to people like us, political prisoners, they will be sentenced to death. Other people, they won't be sentenced or arrested because they do not fight for their freedom and rights.)

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.