"The Philippines government must immediately halt its initiative to restore the death penalty to the country after abolishing the practice a decade ago, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today.
The ICJ received reports that the Sub-Committee on Judicial Reform of the House of Representatives of the Philippines has commenced hearings on a bill bringing back the death penalty into Philippine domestic laws. The first hearing reportedly occurred on 8 November 2016. The hearing took place without adequate notice, preventing important stakeholders from participating or giving input.
“President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration seems to be hell-bent on returning to the bad old days of executing people,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia director. “Reinstating the death penalty would breach the Philippines’ international legal obligations and would constitute an all-out assault on decades of global advances in protecting the right to life through abolition of this barbarous practice.”
Under international standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, States may not reintroduce the death penalty once it has been abolished.
The ICJ considers that the death penalty constitutes a violation of the right to life and the prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
“There appears to be a deliberate strategy on the part of the House of Representatives to circumvent meaningful consultations and a full debate on this unconscionable measure,” said Zarifi. “The ramifications on the Philippines’ obligations under international law appear not to have been properly considered by legislators who proposed the measure bringing back the death penalty.”
Until now the Philippines had set an example of regional and global best practice on the abolition of the death penalty. It abolished the death penalty in 2006 and became the first member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to become party to the 2nd Optional Protocol to the ICCPR on the abolition of the death penalty.
The 2nd Optional Protocol provides for no possibility of denunciation or withdrawal and the Human Rights Committee has affirmed that States Parties may not withdraw from this treaty. Moreover, the Committee has stressed that under the ICCPR, no abolitionist State may lawfully reintroduce the death penalty under Article 6 on the right to life, whether or not they are party to the 2nd Optional protocol.
“The Philippines Congress must perform its role as an equal branch of the government and stop such a horrific move backwards for the country,” Zarifi said. “Filipino legislators must question the government as to why it’s even considering such an action, especially at a time when the country is facing an outbreak of extrajudicial executions with apparent government complicity.”
On 31 May 2016, the ICJ wrote to President Rodrigo Duterte underscoring that the death penalty was not only an affront to human rights, but that it had no demonstrable deterrent effect on addressing serious crime. The ICJ pointed out that investing in improved investigation techniques and capacity, and making other needed reforms to the criminal justice system would be the best way to reduce crime."