Mostly the poor face death penalty -- CHR

Mostly the poor face the death penalty and it is because they lack access to a decent education and a competent counsel, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said as it observed the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty Saturday.

Several studies have revealed that those facing execution are mostly from the poor community. In the National Survey on the Public Perception on the Death Penalty, which was conducted in 2018, 63 percent agreed that most people in Death Row are poor people who cannot afford a good lawyer.

CHR Commissioner Karen S. Gomez Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on Anti-Death Penalty, said that even the poor deserve to be empowered with the knowledge of their rights.

The theme of this year's observance, "Access to Counsel -- A Matter of Life or Death," Dumpit explained, places the spotlight on the right to effective legal representation during all stages of arrest, detention, trial, and post-trial.

"Without access to effective legal representation, due process cannot be guaranteed," she said. "This paints a miserable picture where many find themselves on Death Row -- a fact that has been recognized by the Supreme Court through People v. Mateo, where it determined that the error rate in imposing the death sentence is 71.77 percent."

While the country currently remains free of the death penalty, Dumpit said that efforts in bringing it back have not ceased, especially with its inclusion in President Duterte's legislative agenda.

Several people have said that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against criminality and that there is access to proper counsel as the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) is always available for the poor.

Dumpit slammed these arguments as "flawed." To help people have a better understanding of the capital punishment and its negative effects, the CHR has launched two advocacy tools -- a research entitled “In Defense of the Right to Life: Analyzing Factors Affecting Filipino Opinion About Death Penalty” and the Right to Life website, which is an online database containing information about the death penalty in the Philippines.

The website contains human rights advisories written by the CHR and its partners, curated international and local news, selected resources relevant to the campaign against the death penalty, international human rights treaties, and Supreme Court jurisprudence.

"We hope that these tools can help expose the ugly truth about death penalty and convey facts that will further persuade the public to reject its reintroduction," said Dumpit.

She added that rejecting the death penalty is not only a legal obligation, but a moral duty. "Despite formidable efforts to reintroduce the death penalty, we remain steadfast on our resolve to keeping the country death penalty free," she said.