Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Philippines: A Programme of Death

THE 17TH Congress will spend its maiden year pushing three ambitious items on the incoming Duterte administration’s agenda: the switch to a federal government, restoration of the death penalty and lowering of the age of criminal liability, according to the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.

Alvarez said that in the first two years of the Duterte administration, he planned to reinstate capital punishment for heinous crimes. During the campaign, Duterte had promised to reinstate the death penalty.

As mayor for over two decades in Davao City, Duterte is known for his iron-fist stance on crime, and is known to have links to “death squads” notorious for killing criminals in the city.

Addressing arguments that the death penalty was not known to be a deterrent to crime, Alvarez argued that: “There’s been no death penalty for many years but crime is still increasing.”

The death penalty was abolished under the 1987 Constitution with the caveat that it may be reimposed, with Congress approval, for heinous crimes. It was reimposed during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada, and stopped during the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The hatchet man appointed by newly elected President Duterte of the Philippines, has outlined a chilling programme for the coming years. There is nothing of democracy, the economy, or civil society, rather the establishment of autocratic rule, death, and extension of criminality to the young. Most extraordinary of all is the open proclamation of extension of the term of a man who has not even yet been elevated to power. 
Of course those who helped achieve abolition of the death penalty in the Philippines are disappointed in the outcome. "The same prisoners as before rot in jails, the same violence prevails across the country, families of victims and the imprisoned are still without assistance". But abolition in itself is not the end of crime, it is rather the beginning of a new era of justice. The respect for human life which replaces the death penalty must be the basis of a new culture of life; if no effort is made then, indeed nothing improves. The failure to build on abolition cannot be blamed on abolition itself.  

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Well Phrased Letter

PM Prayut's ordered the legal community and judiciary to ensure that convicted rapists are sentenced to death.

But, we are chronically unable to ensure that we can even clearly identify the guilty parties. Consider the recent high-profile murder/rape of the two British tourists on Koh Tao. There, the court;s guilty verdict relied heavily on DNA analysis by a police lab that hadn't been certified to carry out such analysis, thus making its report inadmissible in court -- and making the case a fiasco.Also, the defendants hadn't been previously informed of the counterpart of their Miranda Rights, so their “confessions” upon which the court relied were inadmissible, per Thai Criminal Code S134/4. Would PM Prayut kill those whose guilt hadn't been proven beyond reasonable doubt? Remember, capital punishment, once carried out, is irreversible.

Also, the worse a crime is, the harsher their punishment should be (to have proportionality). If we execute rapists, what will we do with murderers?
Lastly, rapists, knowing that they'd be executed if caught, would be sorely tempted to kill those they've raped, to lessen their chances of being identified. That would not be in society's interests.

We should think, and think again, before applying capital punishment.
Burin Kantabutra
Bangkok Post, (bold type added)

Sunday, June 05, 2016

5 Dead as Street Executions Start in Philiippines

         Gunmen carry out Duterte-inspired killings of suspects in 3 provinces


                          Duterte cannot even wait until he is legally installed as President

ILOILO CITY—Five bodies in three provinces in three days.Five men, including a lawyer, fell victims to what appear to be cases of summary execution in Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental from Thursday to Saturday. The killings came as President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, who told police to get drug suspects dead or alive, prepared to assume office at the end of the month.

All share one thing in common—being suspected of involvement in crimes, including the illegal drug trade.
In Negros Occidental, a suspected drug supplier in the northern part of the province was killed by two motorcycle riding men in Calatrava town.
Habib Into, 49, of San Carlos City, who died of multiple gunshot wounds, was at the top of the list of most wanted drug suspects in San Carlos City and other areas, said Supt. Jacob Crisostomo, San Carlos City police chief.
Some 10 grams of shabu and P21,000 in cash were found from Into, police said.
A few hours later, a body was dumped by still unidentified men in Barangay Zone 15, Talisay City, also in Negros Occidental.
The victim, identified as Jeffrey Buencuchillo, 33, was tied and suffered multiple gunshot wounds. His hands were cut off.
Police found in the crime scene a cardboard with a message that read: “I am a member of Akyat Bahay, a thief, an addict. Don’t follow my example because you will be killed next.”
In Negros Oriental, a lawyer was killed while he rode a tricycle to a pension house in Barangay Looc, Dumaguete City, around 10:20 a.m. on Friday.
Rex Agan Perewperew, 38 and a native of Siquijor, was also shot by motorcycle-riding men. He suffered three gunshot wounds in the back.
Police said Perewperew is being investigated for alleged involvement in drugs. He was out on bail for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
In Iloilo, two men with criminal records were separately found dead with gunshot wounds on Saturday.
The body of Sherwin Taasan, 38, was found by a village watchman around 5:45 a.m. on a grassy lot in Barangay San Vicente in Leganes town, some 11 kilometers north of Iloilo City.
Insp. Gerry Leones, Leganes police chief, said Taasan had six gunshot wounds, including two in the head.
He was found with his hands tied behind his back with a black shoelace.
Taasan, a resident of Barangay Rizal PalaPala II in Iloilo City, had been arrested several times for snatching, Leones said, citing accounts from his live-in partner.
He is also facing a murder case.
Rotchel Navales, common-law wife of Taasan, said Taasan was on board a jeepney bound for Molo District when two armed men flagged down the vehicle and handcuffed him.
“The two said they were police and my husband has a warrant (of arrest) and they handcuffed him,” she told investigators at the Leganes police.
Navales said Taasan was involved in petty crimes and was once a drug user.
“Even though he was a thief, they should not have killed him. We have small children,” said Navales who has seven children with Taasan.
In Iloilo City, a 33-year-old ex-convict was found dead with 11 gunshot wounds around 3 a.m. in Barangay San Jose in Villa Arevalo District also on Saturday. His hands were tied behind his back with a packing tape. Police identified the victim as Lou Facto, a resident of Barangay Sooc, Villa Arevalo. Facto had been recently released from detention for an illegal drugs or firearms case, according to PO2 Rhizan Magoleño, of the investigation section of the Arevalo police stationD.

Philippine Daily Enquirer, June 5

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Statement on the Restoration of the Death Penalty and the "Shoot-to-Kill" Policy in the Phillipines


Statement on the Restoration of the Death Penalty and the “Shoot-to-Kill Policy
The FREE LEGAL ASSISTANCE GROUP [FLAG] strongly opposes the incoming government’s efforts to restore the death penalty and adopt and implement a “shoot-to- kill” policy.   These actions are illegal and unconstitutional, render our legal system impotent and meaningless, and blatantly violate international law.
The death penalty and “shoot-to-kill” policy are anti-poor.
The death penalty is anti-poor. Seventy-three percent (73%) of the 1,121 inmates on death row before the death penalty was abolished in 2006 earned less than ten thousand pesos (Php10,000) a month. Eighty-one percent (81%), in addition, worked in low- income jobs as sales, service, factory, agricultural, transport or construction workers.1 If these numbers are any indication, it is those who live in poverty who will suffer the most if the death penalty is restored.
The poor also bore the brunt of wrongful death penalty convictions. In the landmark case of People vs. Mateo,2 the Supreme Court revealed that seventy-one percent (71%) of the death sentences handed down by the trial courts were wrongfully imposed. This means that 7 out of 10 convicts on death row–-most of them poor–-were wrongfully convicted and did not deserve to be there.
The poor are vulnerable to the death penalty because they have no voice, no money, no power, and lack the resources to hire good lawyers. For exactly the same reasons, they will also be vulnerable to the proposed “shoot-to-kill” policy of the President-elect.
The death penalty and “shoot-to-kill” policy cheapen human life.
The death penalty and “shoot-to-kill” policy—coupled with the President-elect’s proposal to employ death by hanging “until the head is completely severed from the body3—reflect a callous disregard for human dignity not befitting a Chief Executive. The Constitution, the Code of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees, and other laws impose on all public servants the duty to observe, respect, and promote human rights. Advocating state-sanctioned killings is not just anti-poor but anti-life.
The death penalty and “shoot-to-kill” policy, moreover, will not deter crime–only the certainty of being caught and punished can do that. What the country needs is a better justice system--not a new one based on the barrel of a gun.
The restoration of the death penalty blatantly violates international law.
The Philippine Government signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 20 September 2006 and ratified it on 20 November  2007  without  reservation.    The  Second  Optional  Protocol  “is  the  only
international treaty of worldwide scope to prohibit executions and to provide for total
abolition of the death penalty.4  States that ratify the Second Optional Protocol “are
required to renounce the use of the death penalty definitively.5
President-elect Duterte is bound by the Second Optional Protocol. In the words of two highly respected experts on the death penalty, Sir Roger Hood, Professor Emeritus of Criminology, University of Oxford, and William Schabas, Professor of Human Rights Law and International Criminal Law, Leiden University
The Philippines would, if it reintroduced the death penalty, be the only nation to have abolished it and reintroduced it twice, and the only nation to reintroduce it having made a commitment to abolishing it by ratifying the 2nd Optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political
As for the Second Optional Protocol, no State has ever attempted to denounce the Second Optional Protocol. It would be unprecedented. I think it would also be illegal. The Human Rights Committee has already made it clear that denunciation of the Covenant itself is impossible. This was well-known to the Philippines when it ratified the Second Optional Protocol. Article 6(1) of the Second Optional Protocol states, 'The provisions of the present Protocol shall apply as additional provisions to the Covenant.' Thus, when [the] Philippines ratified the Protocol, it agreed that its provisions became part of the Covenant. And it is impossible to denounce the Covenant, in whole or in part. If [the] Philippines restores the death penalty, it will be in clear breach of both the Covenant and the Protocol. This has already happened with Liberia, which restored the death penalty after ratifying the Second Optional Protocol. Liberia has had no executions since ratifying the Second Optional Protocol, however. Given that article 1(2) of the Protocol says, 'Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.', merely enacting legislation for the death penalty, even if it is not imposed, constitutes a breach of the Protocol and therefore of the Covenant.
If the Philippines reinstates capital punishment (after having ratified the Second Optional Protocol), the country would be condemned for violating international law. It would be a great stigma.
The shoot-to-kill policy disregards rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
The 1987 Constitution categorically mandates that “[n]o person shall be deprived of life,  liberty,  or  property   without  due  process  of  law.6   The  Constitution  further guarantees the right to be presumed innocent, to be heard, to counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him/her, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his/her behalf. These rights are brushed aside by the shoot-to-kill policy.
The shoot-to-kill policy gives unbridled discretion to law enforcement officers to take the law into their own hands and act as judge, jury, and executioner. It contravenes Article 11(1-3) of the Revised Penal Code which authorizes police officers to use deadly force only when it is reasonably necessary. In the words of Justice Antonio Carpio of the Supreme Court—
[…] a policeman is never justified in using unnecessary force or in treating the offender with wanton violence, or in resorting to dangerous means when the arrest could be affected otherwise.7

FLAG, therefore, calls upon the President-elect to abandon his plans to restore the death penalty and impose a “shoot-to-kill” policy.

Quezon City, Philippines, 20 May 2016.


1 See “Socio-economic Profile of Capital Offenders in the Philippines, a study conducted by the Free
Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) in 2004, published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
2 G.R. Nos. 147678-87, 07 July 20

3 Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 May 2016, p. A-6.Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 May 2016, p. A-6.
4 Article by Pierre Deset published on 27 June 2008, available at
5 Id..

6 1987 PHIL. CONST., art. III, sec. 1.
 7   Cabanlig v. Ynares-Santiago, GR No. 148431, 28 July 2005.


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