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)).

Restoration of Death Penalty in Philippines?

 Debates on death penalty begin next week

Proponents and opponents of the bill restoring the death penalty are poised to begin their showdown on the House plenary floor next week.
“We expect that the fireworks on this revival of capital punishment will commence on Tuesday or Wednesday next week,” said Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, leader of the “Magnificent 7” independent minority bloc.
He said he was told by Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of the change in schedule. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier announced the plenary debates would begin this week.
At a press briefing, Lagman reiterated his call on the House leadership “not to insist on a party or a pressure vote.”
No justification
“House members should be allowed to freely exercise their conscience and conviction in voting on the measure,” he said.
Lagman said he wished to dispel the impression that the 1987 Constitution prescribed the death penalty. “On the contrary, it prohibits it,” he said.
“As of now the proponents have failed to make any justification on the death penalty. They are citing that incidents of crime have risen in recent years. That is incorrect. PNP (Philippine National Police) data show there is a decreasing incidence, except for murder,” he said.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Protest to Philippine Parliament on Restoration of Death Penalty

ADPAN strongly urges all members of the Philippine House of Representative and Senate to reject the reinstatement of the death penalty and uphold the rights to life as enshrined in the Constitution.

 Reinstating the death penalty would violate Philippine’s international legal obligations, in particular, the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the country has ratified.

 The reasons behind the reinstatement of the death penalty are ill founded and purely a political one. Numerous studies and analysis have concluded that death penalty does not deter crime. Indeed, there has been no existing reliable evidence to prove otherwise.

 ADPAN also wishes to highlight that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has consistently called for the abolishment of death penalty on drug related offences, citing that such irreversible and oppressive laws are not an effective prevention and solution and it is not supported by international drug conventions.

 It is also to be noted that on 11th January 2017, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Mr Wisanu Krea-ngarm had said that Thailand would eventually do away with death penalty by trying to amend the law to find alternative to the capital punishment, taking into consideration the global trend on abolition.

 The Malaysian government has also announced its intention to abolish the mandatory death penalty on drug offences while a comprehensive study is now underway that may also see the total abolition of the death penalty.

 Philippine, if successfully revive the death penalty, would not only move backward in its human rights standards and obligations, and would also not be in line with the progress made by its neighboring countries towards the eventual abolition of death penalty.

 ADPAN states its disappointment that this Bill to reinstate the death penalty is being rushed on 16 January 2017 when the House of Representative resumes, and urges all members of the House of Representative and Senate to consider it carefully and reject it, respecting and upholding the right to life.

 Ngeow Chow Ying

For and on behalf of the ADPAN Executive Committee

15 January 2017


The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) is an independent cross-regional network committed to working for an end to the death penalty across the Asia Pacific region. ADPAN is made up of NGOs, organizations, civil society groups, lawyers and individual members, not linked to any political party, religion or government and campaigns against the death penalty. It currently has members in 28 countries: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Denmark, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Vietnam, UK, USA.

Survey on Capital Punishment in Thailand

A large majority of people say the death penalty should continue to exist, and that rape followed by murder of the victim is the crime that deserves it the most, according to a survey by the National Institute for Development Administration (NIDA). The NIDA poll was carried out from January 9 to January 11 among 1,250 respondents who were aged 18 and over, from various levels of education and occupation throughout the country on whether the death penalty should be reviewed.
Asked whether the death penalty should stay, a huge majority, 87.1% said it should, only 8% said it should no longer be in force; and 4.8% were uncertain. Asked what type of crime they think most deserves the death penalty, 56.5% pointed to rape and murder; 22% mentioned repetition of serious crimes; 10.6 picked premeditated murder; 3.1% chose drug offenses; 2.48% opted for robbery and murder; 1.4% picked physical assault resulting in death; 1.1% went for corruption; 1.47% chose other crimes, such as terrorism, while 1.1% were uncertain.
Asked whether the death penalty should be executed without being commuted, 86.3% said “yes”; 11.2% picked “no”, saying that wrongdoers should be given a chance to make amends as they could have committed crimes unintentionally; and 2.48% were uncertain.
Those who picked not commuting the death sentence said Thailand’s law enforcement was not strict and leniency would only invite repetition of crimes.
Bangkok Post reporters; 16/1/2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

There is nothing more to say

The story behind the viral photo

/ 12:02 AM July 31, 2016
It was the third extrajudicial killing of suspected drug pushers that I covered on the graveyard shift last week.
Around 1:30 a.m. on July 23, upon arriving on Edsa Taft-Pasay Rotunda from another crime scene, I could already see the picture.
I knew this was different. In the middle of the police line in which photographers and bystanders are not allowed to cross was the lifeless body of suspected drug pusher Michael Siaron, cradled by partner Jennilyn Olayres. A cardboard sign that read “Drug pusher huwag tularan” (I am a drug pusher, don’t emulate) was left near the body.
An hour had passed after the shooting, according to witnesses. A gunman on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice fired on Siaron and left the cardboard sign beside him. Another person was wounded.
TV floodlights and news cameras popped and flashed as Olayres wept for Siaron while cradling him in her arms like Michelangelo’s world-famous sculpture “Pieta,” a depiction of the Virgin Mary mourning over the body of the dead Christ.
I took many shots from a distance supported by the light from cameras illuminating Siaron and Olayres, which appeared very much like lighting from a theater stage. Hearing her pleading for help was gut-wrenching. I could do nothing but take more shots.
Talk-pieta2I saw no need to use a flash, as I needed to capture the dark-at-dawn atmosphere.
“That’s enough! And help us!” she cried out to media workers, authorities and onlookers.
I stopped taking pictures and looked for a policeman. I asked him, “What are you waiting for?”
The policeman replied: “We can’t do anything as he is already dead. Let’s wait for the Soco (Scene of the Crime Operatives).”
The members of the Soco team came several minutes late because they came from the same crime scene we covered earlier outside the Senate Building in Pasay City.
What could I do? It was heartbreaking but I knew I had to do my job. The crime scene still had to be processed. Evidence had to be gathered.
I climbed the overpass and took more shots: an overview of the scene with cars passing along Edsa, with a few motorists stopping and looking at the commotion, a crowd gathering around the body and Olayres laying Siaron down on the pavement and weeping.
Another report came—a body was found in Leveriza, Pasay City, the fourth on that shift. Many of my colleagues and I hurried off but we all had a heavy heart.
We were not able to take pictures of the male victim—the fourth in “Patay City” (a play on Pasay City, meaning city of the dead), as a radio reporter jokingly said—as the body had been removed from the crime scene. The victim, a mute, was shot and killed by a motorcycle-riding gunman, who also left a cardboard message near his body.
We were quiet as we went back to the Manila Police District, the office of graveyard-shift media workers. I lighted a cigarette to calm my nerves. Another photographer took deep breaths. Together, we recounted moments from the scene at Pasay Rotunda.
Another veteran photographer said, while shaking his head, “I no longer want to be a photographer.” We all had the same feeling of guilt.
We were unsure whether to submit the pictures for publication because we felt guilty for not being able to help the victim and his partner. We only took photographs.
I remember shaking my head, wiping off my sweat and processing what had just transpired in my head.
I told my colleagues: “Let’s file this. It’s our work.”
We may not have helped the victim and his partner but it is our job to show these pictures. We have to show reality as it is and perhaps, get people to react and even take action.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Another Day in Philippines

Two lives are worth only two bullets
44 year old Domingo Manosca, a pedicab driver, had already surrendered to police under the government anti-drug campaign.
He was fixing a DVD player inside his house on 11th December when someone knocked on the plywood window of his house. When Manosca asked who it was, the gunman fired through the plywood panel. The bullet struck in the forehead of his four year old son who was asleep on the floor next to his mother and two siblings.
A second bullet hit Manosca in the neck, exiting through his cheek and killing him. His wife said he was not a pusher although he used "shabu" (methamphetamine hydrochloride) to stay awake and work longer hours.

Philippine Enquirer, 10th January

Monday, January 02, 2017

Starting the new year count in Philippines

A total of 2,169 people have been killed in “Operation Double Barrel,” the Philippine National Police’s anti-illegal drug campaign, in the past six months, official data showed.
Citing reports from its regional offices, the PNP also said 43,196 arrested in 40,420 antidrug operations from July 1, 2016 until 6 p.m. of Jan. 1.
Twenty-one policemen and three soldiers were killed, while 61 policemen and eight soldiers were wounded.