Capital punishment in the country has been an on-and-off cycle.
In 1987, the Philippines abolished the death penalty under its post-dictatorship Constitution, but with a caveat that it could reinstate it later for heinous crimes. Death penalty resurfaced in 1993 under Republic Act 7659. In 2006, it was again abolished.
Today, 15 years later and under the Duterte administration, another resurgence is looming. Several bills have been filed to bring back the death penalty.
“These calls are alarming, especially in relation to the administration's sham and bloody drug war which, in one way or another, is already a form of death penalty in itself,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of the human rights organization Karapatan.
Under the Coalition Against the Death Penalty (CADP), several church-based and civic groups have joined forces to raise awareness on the issue. The alliance was first formed in 1994 in response to the increasing number of people being sent to death row after its first reinstatement.
Since 1996, the group has been led by Fr. Silvino Borres SJ, who had served as chaplain of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, where he comforted families of prisoners on death row, among other tasks.
“Aside from losing our moral standing in the world of nations and compromising our existing trade agreements with other nations of which commitment to human rights is a requisite, there is a real danger of erroneous convictions and executions,given the flawed justice system we have," said Borres.
To spread their message to a younger and digital audience, CADP has launched Panibagong Pagkakataon. This digital film series aims to convey the ethical, psychological, and spiritual toll of capital punishment.
Co-funded by the Commission on Human Rights, the series features short films from some of the Philippines’ most acclaimed directors, including Arden Rod Condez (John Denver Trending), and Baby Ruth Villarama (Sunday Beauty Queen).
You can now watch Villarama’s Dance for Life on Rappler Act One. The documentary follows a former death row prisoner who uses dance to enrich the lives of her fellow inmates.