Sunday, April 23, 2017

An answer to failure of Duterte, from his Vice-President

Why not decriminalize drug use? VP urges gov’t to study Portugal move

Is decriminalizing drug use the better alternative to killing drug addicts?
Vice President Leni Robredo, who is banned by Duterte from his cabinet meetings, suggested on Friday that the Philippines look to the example of Portugal, which made the radical decision of decriminalizing drug use in 2001, leading to lower drug-related deaths and declines in drug abuse among its citizens.
Robredo was the guest at a forum in the University of the Philippines in Los Baños when she was challenged by a student to offer an alternative to the government’s deadly drug war, which has left thousands dead since last year.
She said the government should study the best practices by countries that found solutions to the drug menace, and cited Portugal as a “triumphant” example, according to a transcript of the exchange sent by her staff.
Robredo did not directly propose following the Portuguese government’s policy of decriminalizing drug use, but noted how the European nation dramatically shifted its focus from looking at drug abuse punitively to treating it as a health issue requiring treatment and reintegration.
She contrasted it with the failed drug campaigns by state forces in Latin America, most of which had focused on violent methods.
“If we only study the drug campaigns around the world, we will see that the countries that used violence in combating drugs never succeeded. Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico —these countries used force, they fought fire with fire. Many lives were lost but they were not successful,” she said in Filipino.
“Who were successful?” she asked the students.
“One of those is Portugal. What did Portugal do? Portugal found a system to combat drugs that was peaceful and orderly. They reformed their laws; they strengthened rehabilitation [of addicts]; they fixed their institutions responsible for rehabilitating. They were triumphant,” Robredo said.
Portugal decriminalized personal possession of all drugs in 2001.
This did not mean possessing drugs for personal use became legal, but rather, it was considered an administrative violation punishable by fines or community service.
According to the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Portugal registered lower drug use levels than the European average since the decriminalization policy took effect in 2001.
Drug use also declined among those aged 15-24, the population most at risk of initiating drug use, the UK-based group said in a 2015 report.
“Overall, this suggests that removing criminal penalties for personal drug possession did not cause an increase in levels of drug use,” the foundation said. It noted, however, that besides decriminalization, Portugal instituted corresponding social and health reforms that aided the new drug policy.
“This tallies with a significant body of evidence from around the world that shows the enforcement of criminal drug laws has, at best, a marginal impact in deterring people from using drugs,” it said.
In the UP forum, Robredo said it was important to learn from the experience of other countries facing drug problems.
“Why don’t we look at the best practices and try them, because we have enough lessons in the past from other countries to determine what works and what doesn’t,” she said.
She said she wished to pursue community rehabilitation for drug dependents.
“Many of those who surrendered were not really drug dependents but occasional drug users. Why don’t we create a program for them?” she said.
Robredo noted how congested Philippine jails were, with more than half of the inmate population incarcerated for drug-related offenses.

Philippine Enquirer, 23rd April 2017

Robredo was elected Vice President independently of President Duterte and differs from him on most issues.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

They shot him. Just like that.

                                                  Raymart, son of Luzviminda

Luzyiminda Siapo dreamt of giving her children a better life when she left for Kuwait two years ago. But last week news from home, the kind nightmares are made of, sent the domestic running back.
On March 29th, a group of men in ski masks abducted and killed her 19-year old son Raymart a day after a neighbour tagged him as a marijuana peddler in Barangay NBBS, Navotas City.

“All it took was a false accusation for these people to murder my son,” Siapo, a single parent, said in an interview earlier this week. They did not bother to investigate, they did not bother to verify. “They just killed him”. The night before the murder, Raymart and a neighbour had a heated argument that ended with the latter going to the barangay hall to accuse Raymart of many things, like selling marijuana. The neighbour, ideentified only as Pejie, said his piece before desk officer Christopher Cariquitan who had everything recorded in his logbook.

The following night, aarmed men on motorbikes came looking for the teenager. An uncle who served as Raymart's guardian said over 14 men arrived and five of them entered their target's house. They couldn't find Raymart but later located him at a friend's house nearby.

Last cries for help
Forced to ride with the group, Raymart was last heard crying for help from anyone he saw on the street. They went around the barangay until they reached the area known as Bangkulasi.
The gunmen reportedly asked Raymart to get off the motorcycle and run. He wouldn't, and couldn't for Raymart was born with bilateral club foot (both feet were deformed).

“When my son refused, they asked him to sit down instead. Then, they shot him. Just like that, Stapo said.

Aie Balagtas See: Philippine Daily Enquirer, April 9

Comment by M. Ceres P. Doyo in Phillipine Enquirer, 4/13/2017

                                                        There s no name for her pain

Monday, April 03, 2017

"All the world's a stage"

MANILA - A Philippine youth theatre club staged a musical at a Manila park on Sunday, challenging President Duterte's bloody war on drugs. The count of those gunned down is over 8,000.
"The 20-minute show features a casket salesman whose funeral parlour is doing brisk business as corpses pile up.
But the salesman and his friends end up as statistics, falling to vigilante-style killings that have gripped the Southeast Asian nation and alarmed the international community."

See original photo of the slaying below in "There is nothing more to say"

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Philippines: Latest killing

                                                         Is this a human being?

Saturday, April 01, 2017

The trauma of being an executioner

An article in the “Guardian” newspaper, carries the heading, “The psychological impact on execution teams is one of the least discussed aspects of capital punishment in the US, yet arguably one of the most disturbing” : to introduce the article, “Eight executions in 11 days: Arkansas order may endanger staff's mental health” , The Guardian, 30th March, 2017. The article begins by relating the experience of a Dr. Alan Ault who as commissioner of the department of corrections in Georgia,gave the order for five executions by electric chair in 1994 and 1995. After the fifth life was taken, the cumulative distress reached breaking point and he resigned from the post.

Next month, the state’s Republican governor of Georgia has scheduled no fewer than eight executions over 11 days: “On Wednesday, 23 former corrections officials from 16 different states sent a joint letter to Hutchinson urging him to reconsider. They warned, several on the basis of personal experience, that participating in executions can exact a “severe toll on corrections officers’ wellbeing” and that by doing so many so quickly, Arkansas was “needlessly exacerbating the strain and stress placed on these officers”. The article goes on to report senseless exchanges on the issue, such as a justification that scheduling the executions over a short time would reduce the stress for the team of executioners. How convenient! I am reminded of a state in India where executions had not been carried out for several years. Suddenly, a judge sent an order of execution to the prison ordering a resumption of executions. The prison staff responded with the terse response that if he wished a resumption of executions he could come and carry them out himself!

It is true that in the debate on the death penalty and its abolition, little attention is paid to the trauma of those who carry out the execution on our behalf. However, in Thailand, this aspect of capital punishment has been treated with immense insight and sympathy by Tom Waller in his film “The Last Executioner” where the conflict in the mind and heart of Thailand's last executioner, Chavoret Jaruboon is treated, using all the arts of the powerful medium of film. Chavoret, in his day, executed 55 prisoners, including one woman. He wrote an artless account of his life and the trade which shaped it, as it did the lives of his family. One cannot add, and his friends or acquaintances, for he was a lonely and possessed man. Perhaps only his superior officers understood something of the effects of being an executioner to their command. The writer of this blog met Chavoret, and felt his longing for approval and acceptance. The film of Tom Waller is often surreal, as the world of karma and guilt intrude into a the banality of a very ordinary life. But its art is great, and offers a profound reflection on the act of judicial killing.

Significantly, the moment of crisis in the film, which strains the self justification of Chavoret, and disrupts his family harmony, is his botched execution of a condemned woman. But that will be a story for another day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

An Example for All Nations to Inform Their Citizens


                                          Click on Image above to read statement

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Counter attack of Duterte against Senator Leila de Lima, opponent of his drug killings

 The Philippine War on Drugs by President Duterte's campaign of extrajudicial killings has taken a bizarre turn with an accusation against his foremost critic that she herself presided over an illegal drug trade. (See posting below on "Women take a lead in opposing Duterte killings") 
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed criminal charges against Sen. Leila de Lima on Friday over allegations she presided over the illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary when she was the justice secretary. De Lima said she had expected the move and scored the Duterte administration for its “vindictive politics.” She said she was bracing herself for becoming “the first political prisoner” under the regime of her archenemy.

“As expected, the DOJ today filed criminal charges against me with the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa,” De Lima said in a statement. “My lawyers are already on top of the situation and will be filing the corresponding motions as soon as the cases are raffled to a specific branch.” De Lima said the DOJ resolution finding probable cause against her was a “travesty of truth and justice".

"Philippine Daily Enquirer, 18/2/2017"

Saturday, February 11, 2017

There is no "humane execution"

     Under threat of restoration of the death penalty in the Philippines a consideration of the horror of  executions is again being raised. In Thailand we have not even reached the stage of option, but it provides us with opportunity to reflect on our practice. The following paragraphs are an introduction to a recent article in "Philippine Enquirer". Lethal injection is the supposed humane choice of method of execution in Thailand. So far six persons have been so executed.

"According to a 2002 article in the Journal of Forensic Science, it takes an average of 8.4 minutes for a lethal injection protocol to achieve the desired end. The most common one involves the insertion of intravenous lines and the administration three drugs. These are sodium thiopental, which depresses the central nervous system in 30 seconds, introducing a degree of unconsciousness that makes pain undetectable; pancuronium bromide, a relaxant which takes 30-45 seconds to induce paralysis and respiratory arrest; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart in around 30 seconds. Given procedural delays, errors in IV line insertion, and delays in pronouncing death, the whole process takes around 10 minutes.
 It all sounds simple and painless, but these quick facts are only the tip of an iceberg of debates - decades long arguments on the effectivity and ultimate humaneness of the protocol. There are horror stories of failed IV line insertions with incorrect administration of thiopental, of autopsies revealing inadequate blood levels of one or more of the said drugs, of convicts struggling to get up long after the injections. Some have noted that the first drug may wear off quickly, which may lead to an agonizing death with inmates unable to express pain because they have been rendered paralyzed. It is easy to suppose that lethal injection, as we know it, creates the appearance of a painless quiet death more than actually giving it. hence the controversy surrounding the protocols of  lethal injection in the United States."

Kay Riveria, "Cruel and unusual", Philippine Daily Enquirer, 10 Feb 2017

Saturday, January 28, 2017

End Days of Philippine Justice

This website has been reporting news from the Philippines relating to the threat that the death penalty will be restored and the present wave of extrajudicial killings, supposedly a substitute for judicial executions. Perhaps we need go no further than presenting the editorial in today's (28th January 2017) of  the Philippine Daily Enquirer:
The scenario for the Philippines painted in the last presidential election by the then mayor of Davao was stark: Without him at the helm, and short of the iron methods he claimed had successfully rid his city of street vermin and crime, the country risked becoming a narcostate. He said that drug syndicates, in cahoots with oligarchs, were on the verge of taking over, and that his candidacy, promising change of radical proportions, was the “last ace” to turn things around. Seven months later, the contours of that promised war on drugs and crime have become all too familiar and disturbing: over 7,000 deaths due to extrajudicial killings; respect for due process and human rights much diminished; a raft of complaints over the Philippine National Police’s (PNP)  signature antidrug campaign, “Oplan Tokhang,” being used to harass ordinary citizens; and a police force, or at least a significant portion of it, that appears to have essentially gone into the same criminal racket it is sworn to stamp out.
The news about the kidnapping for ransom of a Korean businessman from his home in Angeles City and his killing right inside Camp Crame, the very headquarters of the PNP—and under the guise of the government’s campaign against drugs, Jee Ick-joo having been seized as part of a supposed drug raid on his home—reaffirmed a basic truth that the public has come to know: The police force is rotten.
But even that accepted reality still reels at the heinousness of this crime. The raiding team led by SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel is also accused of, among other things, stealing P450,000 from Jee’s home; receiving P5 million in ransom from the Korean’s wife, then demanding P4.5 million more from her, even as her husband was killed on the same day; and flushing Jee’s cremated remains down the toilet. And on top of all that, the strangling of Jee inside his car while it was parked on Camp Crame grounds, literally just walking distance from the office and official residence of the country’s top cop, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.
Was this an isolated case, or merely one botched job by a much bigger syndicate in the PNP? As Inquirer columnist Randy David put it, “No single police officer, no matter how brazen, can pull off a heinous crime like this without the collusion of other officers. But, more to the point, a crime of this nature can only be the byproduct of a climate of impunity and public timidity that—in the name of the so-called war on drugs—has normalized abduction and the raiding of homes, and has made killing an everyday thing.”

True enough, at the Senate hearing that began on Thursday to look into the Korean’s abduction and killing, Sta. Isabel apparently decided he shouldn’t get all the blame, and began pointing to several higher PNP officers as the masterminds of the “tokhangfor-ransom” scheme. His wife also presented to the media CCTV clips and audio recordings purporting to show that he was merely following orders.
The reaction of Dela Rosa to these revelations is, to say the least, curious: He lashed out at the media for having given Sta. Isabel’s wife airtime, and is insisting this early that claims of involvement by other police officers are only meant to make the entire PNP look bad.
To Dela Rosa’s seeming tendency to circle the wagons around the PNP, Sen. Panfilo Lacson had a potent riposte via a chilling video that was played at the Senate. The clip showed cops charging into an office on the pretext of a drug raid, then, after the employees were out of the room, surreptitiously planting drugs inside table drawers and taking some of the employees’ belongings. According to Lacson, the cops also demanded P2 million from the office owner.
The presentation of the video at the Senate hearing was meant “to [put] it on record that [Jee’s case] was not isolated and many similar cases are happening,” said Lacson.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Reflection on the Actual Death Penalty Worldwide

At two year intervals, the United Nations General Assembly, the most representative gathering of all the nations of the world, holds a recount of intention regarding the death penalty.  The choice proposed is simple and stark, to support or oppose a world suspension of the death penalty. Below is a brief summary of the results of the vote in December 2016.

(Thailand abstained from voting)
The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for a 6th resolution calling for a universal moratorium on executions
Article by Elise Guillot et Aurélie Plaçais published on December 20th, 2016
On 19 December 2016, with 117 States voting in favour of the resolution, the UN member states reasserted their support for a universal moratorium on the use of the death penalty.                 

Confirming the vote of the UNGA’s Third Committee on 17 November, the resolution A/RES/71/187 was adopted by a large majority, with news States voting in favour of it. 117 voted for the resolution, 40 against (+ 2 compared to 2014) while 31 abstained (- 3) and 5 were absent. 89 States cosponsored the resolution.

The adoption of this resolution confirms and supports the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.

 Following recent abolitions in law, Guinea and Nauru voted in favour of the resolution and Guinea co-sponsored it for the first time. Mongolia was one of the two lead co-sponsors and Fiji and Suriname confirmed their positive votes for the second time in a row.

Recent evolutions in abolitionist in practice countries also lead to a positive change of vote in Malawi and Swaziland which voted, for the first time, in favour of the resolution. Zimbabwe moved from opposition to abstention and Sri Lanka from abstention to a vote in favour, confirming its commitments taken during the 6th World Congress against the Death Penalty in June 2016. DRC which had taken a similar commitment during the World Congress was unfortunately absent from the vote.

National debates and political crises were also reflected in some of the negative changes. Burundi and South Sudan moved from yes to no while Niger, Equatorial Guinea and Seychelles moved from a positive vote to abstention. The Philippines moved from a positive vote to abstention while the Maldives regrettably moved from abstention to a negative vote. 

A smaller but very active group of hard core retentionist countries

While the number of countries opposed to the resolution went down from 54 in 2007 to 37 in 2014 and 40 in 2016, and the number of countries signing the statement of dissociation from 58 in 2008 to 27 in 2015, a small group of countries, led by Singapore have been really active in 2016. For the first time, they managed to have an amendment to the text on state sovereignty, introduced by Singapore, adopted on the edge by 76 States, while 72 voted against during the 3rd Committee. It is very interesting to note, however, that the amendment had no repercussion whatsoever on the vote.

The resolution unequivocally frames the death penalty as a human rights issue, calling on States to “establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty”. As Singapore said during the debate,  “the focus (…) had, over the years, shifted from being a moratorium to a push for abolishing the practice”. The text also calls upon States to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

The 2016 resolution has also introduced new elements to make the text stronger in encouraging all States to take further steps towards respecting international law and reducing the application of the death penalty. Paragraph 6(f) thus calls upon States to “ensure that those facing the death penalty can exercise their right to apply for pardon or commutation of their death sentence” along fair and transparent procedures. To increase the transparency, the UNGA also called upon the States to disaggregate the information on the use of the death penalty by sex, age and race (Paragraph 6(c)).