President Duterte has long pushed for the return of the death penalty in order to bolster the government’s fight against illegal drugs, and he repeated this call during his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
“I reiterate the swift passage of a law reviving the death penalty by lethal injection for crimes specified under the Comprehensive Dangerous [Drugs] Act of 2002,” he said.
President Duterte’s statement alarmed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said that bringing back the capital punishment in the country “will be a breach of international law.”
In particular, the reinstatement of the death penalty will conflict the tenets of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Philippines ratified in 2007.
De Guia added that it even goes against two affirmations made by the government during the 2020 SONA, which is to put human lives above all and to uphold its obligation for human rights.
“Time and again, CHR has invited the government to engage in a frank and factual discussion on the ineffectiveness of death penalty in curbing crimes,” she said. “We, too, believe that crimes must be punished. But the call for justice should not result [in] further violations of human rights, especially the right to life.”
The CHR said that a “comprehensive approach” is needed to address the threat of illegal drug trade and use, as well as other crimes. Instead of imposing punishments with little or no regard for human life and rights, de Guia said the government should focus on “restorative justice.”
The death penalty in the country was abolished back in 2006 during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Since then, several organizations such as Amnesty International have voiced out against bringing back the death penalty in the Philippines – even if it means that it will help against the war on drugs.
“The idea that the death penalty will rid the country of drugs is simply wrong. The resumption of executions will not rid the Philippines of problems associated with drugs or deter crime. It is an inhumane, ineffective punishment and is never the solution. The Philippines’ attempts to reintroduce it are clearly unlawful. This will just earn the country notoriety as one of the few countries to revive its horrific use,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.