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Philippines: 'Death penalty backers banking on emotions, not facts'

Philippines: Extrajudicial killings of alleged trug traffickers are soaring
Philippines: Extrajudicial killings of alleged trug traffickers are soaring
A human rights activist said those in favor of death penalty is banking on the emotions of victims of crimes to justify the push to reinstate death penalty in the country.

Speaking on ANC, Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch said there is not enough factual evidence to show that death penalty can prevent crimes.

"We're still waiting for statistics for the proponents of the bill to show to us, for instance, that there's an upsurge of crime fueled by drug use, which is the usual argument by those who are pushing for this bill but we haven't seen any significant data or statistics that would convincingly show that," he said.

This is also the reason why backers of death penalty bills are banking on people's emotions instead to gain support for their cause.

"This is why the proponents of death penalty are making this a very emotional issue, citing, for instance, cases of crime supposedly related to drug use or heinous crimes supposedly related to drug use but they haven't shown data that would support the assertion that death penalty is a deterrent to crime," Conde said.

"The death penalty is a highly-charged political issue that legislators and politicians often latch on to as their advocacy because it's a very popular issue. People respond to the death penalty with this very highly emotional response," he added.

According to Conde, the death penalty is a very popular issue because of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"This push for the death penalty arises from the popularity of President Rodrigo Duterte; so as long as he's extremely popular, we expect politicians and lawmakers to follow his lead," he said.

Conde admitted that it will be difficult for those who are against death penalty to convince pro-death penalty lawmakers.

"If there is enough groundswell of dissent against these death penalty proposals in Congress, certainly all those people who did not vote for President Duterte could make a dent in the argument against death penalty, but you know, the death penalty is not a very popular issue among advocates," he said. "It would take a lot of work, to be honest, for those against the death penalty, to sway the legislators to not push this bill," Conde added.

DETERRENCE


Meanwhile, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) spokesperson Arsenio Evangelista reiterated that the death penalty will prevent crimes.

"It will deter. For us, it is the biggest weapon now for crime prevention, deterrence. When it comes to data, pro-life is saying that it is not a deterrent. It is a deterrent on a very high percentage," he said.

"Precisely, the absence of death penalty will increase extra-judicial killings because for us, death penalty is a retribution for acts being done to victims... The certainty of death will create fear among would-be criminals," Arsenio added.

Last week, the proposal to reimpose the death penalty has advanced to the plenary of the Lower House, 10 years after it was abolished.

Voting 12-6-1, the House justice committee approved the committee report of the substitute bill of the bills restoring the death penalty.

The vote of the mother committee came after an earlier vote of 12-5 adopting the subcommittee report of the same.

Source: ABS-CBN news, December 14, 2016

Drop plans to expand death penalty, bishops ask Philippines


Catholic prayer and protests greeted proposals to expand the use of the death penalty in the Philippines, with the move drawing outspoken opposition from the country's bishops.

"Christ died for the criminals and the victims. The love of God is for all. Our love should be like God's love. For all," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan at a Dec. 12 prayer rally in San Carlos City.

"We are not protesting without a solution. We are protesting with an alternative. Reform the criminal justice system," he added. "If there's a death penalty but the criminal justice system is corrupt, slow and 1-sided, rapist and plunderer, and (drug) pusher and killer will remain confident."

In 2006 the country abolished the death penalty for crimes involving drugs, rape and arson. Now, President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters have sought to reinstate capital punishment for such crimes, citing rising crime rates and drug use.

President Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte
Archbishop Villegas, however, said that the courts can make mistakes, and there is no way to correct a mistake after a prisoner is executed. He said the death penalty is "a lazy form of penalty" that does not help reform "those who made mistakes."

Since July 1, when the new president took office, more than 2,000 people have died in police operations against illicit drugs, Reuters reports. Those killed are mainly street level drug dealers, accused by police of resisting arrest.

In the same time frame, another 3,000 people have been killed by masked men and vigilantes on motorcycles. President Duterte has denied claims of extrajudicial killings.

Senators have reported that they have no clear proof the killings are linked to state-sponsored actions. They have told the president to observe due process for the accused.

Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila and the Manila archdiocese's presbyteral council urged a prayer against the death penalty to be recited at all Sunday Masses in the archdiocese Sunday Dec. 8.

"Father, source and giver of life, we lift our hearts and voices to you. Help us to build a society that truly chooses life in all situations," began the prayer, with the response "Lord, heal our pain."

The prayer was on behalf of victims, perpetrators and society.

"There is in our land a cry for vengeance and a move to fill up death rows and kill offenders but disguised as a call for justice," the prayer continued. "Let true and lasting justice spring forth."

The prayer petitioned that Jesus, who suffered execution at the hands of the powerful, help Christians "reach out to victims of violence so that our enduring love may help heal their wounds."

A separate proposal in the Philippines would lower the age of criminal liability to 9 years old from 12. The bishops have warned this could escalate violence related to anti-drug campaigns.

Source: Catholic News Agency, December 14, 2016

Death penalty debate set early 2017


House Deputy Speaker Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro yesterday said the discussions on the bill to reinstate death penalty, a priority legislative measure of President Duterte, will be moved to early next year, so that congressmen would have a thorough plenary debate.

In a radio interview, Castro said he was responsible for moving back the bill's discussion on the floor because he wanted to prepare to defend it at the plenary.

Castro is one of the principal authors of House Bill No. 1, which seeks to reimpose capital punishment for heinous crimes after it was abolished by then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"We have to let people know, make them understand and study this measure because at first glance, you could say you don't want this bill because life should be respected. This is a reason that is based on one's belief in God and what they call human rights," Castro said in Filipino.

"It's funny because our people might again be misled. This is why I myself said I want to prepare for the debate because I will be the one to stand at the plenary. I will be the one to fight for this bill ... there would be very good interpellators who are now saying they have not made up their mind whether or not they would support this bill," Castro said.

He said the measure could be passed in the Lower House if there would be daily plenary debates on it.

Castro also said he informed House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas, his coauthors, that the proposal should not single out drug dealing and drug use.

Castro said if he had his way, he would add more crimes that are as heinous as the use and sale of illegal drugs to be punishable by death - crimes such as illegal recruitment, plunder, economic sabotage and human trafficking, including the ones conducted via cyberspace.

There are 21 heinous crimes proposed to be punishable by death in the bill approved by the House justice committee - a number which Castro still considers "too small."

Among the "heinous crimes" included in House Bill No. 1 are treason, qualified piracy, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, infanticide, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with violence, destructive arson, plunder.

It also includes dangerous drug importation, sale and trading, manufacture, possession, cultivation and unlawful prescription, misappropriating confiscated illegal drugs and planting of evidence by public officers, and car theft.

Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net, December 14, 2016

Ifugao solon joins anti death penalty law advocates


Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat has urged the public to add their voice to the growing chorus calling for a stop to hasty moves in Congress to reimpose the death penalty.

The Commission on Human Rights as well as the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines have already taken a firm stance against the death penalty with the CBCP saying that the abolition of the death penalty by the 1986 Constitution was "a very big step towards a practical recognition of the dignity of every human being created to the image and likeness of God, and the value of human life from its conception to its natural end."

Baguilat added reimposing the death penalty would mean a backward step without moral necessity.

"Indeed the Constitution says that there must be a compelling reason to reimpose the death penalty and there is none today," said Baguilat, a member of the legitimate opposition bloc in Congress known as the "Magnificent 7".

The Ifugao solon reiterated his stand as the House majority led by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez remained resolute in its stance to immediately pass a law that will bring back the death penalty, ostensibly as part of the campaign against illegal drugs and criminality. Baguilat had said the plan to railroad the passage of the death penalty was a grave cause for concern considering that it had already been established that having a death penalty would not deter the proliferation of crime. "It is not a deterrent. There is no reliable and credible data to show that it is," said Baguilat. "That is why I am again appealing to my colleagues in Congress to not rush into passing such a bill and instead allow extensive and intelligent discussion."

The Cordilleran lawmaker also said the better move is to strengthen the justice system to make sure that justice is served quickly and that the real criminals will go to jail.

"As it is, everybody is saying that the justice system is flawed. That means what we need is more reform to avoid wrongful convictions. Without reforms, what will happen is that the poor will again bear the consequence of the weakness and inconsistency in the application of the criminal justice system. We need to strengthen that first to make a more lasting impact on criminality. I have never believed in legislating this ultimate retribution," Baguilat said.

Capital punishment was last suspended in 2006 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. At that time, Congress was overwhelmingly supportive of the tenet that life has value. President Duterte, however, has consistently said that he wanted it back as part of the package of measures to supposedly stop the proliferation of drugs and criminality.

"I have always said that I am supportive of the President's campaign against drugs and criminality. But there is the right way to do it and reimposing the death penalty, which will violate our international commitments, is not the right way," said Baguilat.

Source: sunstar.com.ph, December 14, 2016

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