In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many r…

ASEAN parliamentarians urge Duterte: Reject death penalty

Manila, Philippines
Parliamentarians from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday urged Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies at the House of Representatives to reject the re-imposition of the death penalty in the country, and to respect the Philippines' international obligations and standing in the ASEAN as a regional leader in human rights protection.

Instead of bringing back the death penalty, the Philippines and ASEAN should think about reforms, preventive measures, and rehabilitation, as ways of deterring crimes instead of the old "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" doctrine, Cambodia Rep. Mu Sochua, Battambang Representative of the National Assembly of Cambodia, said.

"Killing, in whatever form, is a form of violence. Death penalty is the extreme form of violence," Sochua said.

Malaysia, a nation that still imposes capital punishment, still gets opposition from its legislators lobbying for the abolition of the punishment that has been labeled as anti-poor.

Malaysian Batukawan Representative Kasthuri Patto of the Parliament of Malaysia said most victims, if not all, of capital punishment in Malaysia are the poor.

"The ones who are normally victims of this are the marginalized, the poor. Members of the opposition have been lobbying to push for the abolition, particularly in drug trafficking," Patto said.

"Of the 1,000 people who are in death row, 600 are foreigners," Patto added.

She added that the Malaysian government has already put up a committee that will look into the methods of the death penalty.

The Philippines, represented by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, argued that there is consensus worldwide that the death penalty is not an effective means of combating crime, including illegal drugs.

"Iran has had the death penalty since 1959 and yet they admitted the death penalty did not solve their drug problem," she said.

"Singapore and Hongkong...Hongkong has no death penalty, Singapore does, but they have the same crime rate," Hontiveros added.

The ASEAN Parliamentarians also reminded the Duterte administration about the country's international obligations.

The Philippines formally abolished capital punishment in 2006 and ratified in 2007 the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) aimed at the worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

"We have always been inspired by your people power movement, democracy. We want to continue to put you in that high platform, to play that role to protect fundamental rights for our people," Sochua said.

"The Philippines must commit to its true self of being a righteous nation, a nation of faith, a nation that is looked upon," Patto said.

The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said that since the Philippines abolished capital punishment in 2006, it has inspired other countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam to restrict the use of the death penalty, which denotes positive regional progress in the move toward abolition.

Source: abs-cbn.com, February 15, 2017

Palace to ASEAN lawmakers: Death penalty 'apt' for Philippines

The Philippine government, responding to criticism from Cambodian and Malaysian lawmakers, says the death penalty is needed to enforce discipline

Malacanang reacted to Southeast Asian lawmakers' opposition to the revival of the death penalty in the Philippines, arguing that capital punishment is an appropriate measure for the country.

"While some countries may have their opinion, we find the move to reimpose death penalty, reserved for certain heinous crimes, as apt for exercising discipline in a culture that now treats adherence to law an option rather than a rule of community life," said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella in a statement on Wednesday, February 15.

9 members of the Cambodian Parliament and 6 from the Malaysian Parliament signed a solidarity statement opposing the planned reimposition of capital punishment, a measure strongly supported by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Cambodian and Malaysian lawmakers called the death penalty a "barbaric and outdated form of punishment" and one that "puts the Philippines' internatonal credibility at risk."

Despite the criticism, the Palace said the reimposition of the death penalty "remains a priority legislative measure."

Malacañang Palace
Malacañang Palace
It pointed out that several other Southeast Asian countries, like Singapore, continue to impose the death penalty in order to deter crime.

The Philippines' House of Representatives is currently holding debates on the bill for the revival of the death penalty. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is eyeing the bill's passage by mid-March.

The Senate, however, is not keen on approving the measure.

Last February 10, Duterte reiterated his support for the reimposition of capital punishment, saying that government statistics prove it is an effective deterrent against crime.

The Philippine President, elected partly for his hardline stance against crime and drugs, said he also believes the death penalty is the only fitting punishment for certain crimes.

Death penalty lifting did not increase incidence of heinous crimes

President Duterte last week argued for the return of the death penalty by referring to the purported statistics reported by the Bureau of Corrections head Benjamin de los Santos in his recent testimony to the Senate.

The bureaucrat testified: "BuCor statistics show that before the abolition of the death penalty we had 189 inmates convicted for the commission of heinous crimes. After such abolition, a staggering 6,024 were sentenced for heinous crimes, an astonishing 3,280 percent increase."

That's a total lie, a patent fabrication: The Senate must cite the BuCor official for perjury, and for attempting to fool it to pass a law re-imposing the death penalty by presenting false information.

There is no such data: Neither the BuCor nor its mother agency, the justice department, has collated information on convictions on heinous crimes.

The only BuCor data that could approximate the number of "inmates convicted for heinous crimes" are the number of its yearly admissions of convicts. The number of those convicted of heinous crimes - such as murder, rape, and kidnapping - may be estimated based on its data that 48 % of convicts in its prisons are "maximum security" inmates.

(To clarify, the BuCor under the justice department is charged with supervising 6 national prisons, including the biggest, the national penitentiary at the New Bilibid Prison, with its inmates consisting of those already convicted and with sentences of more than 3 years. On the other hand, the inmates in the jails of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, which is under the Philippine National Police, are those still on trial and with convictions of less than 3 years.)

As the data below show, after the June 2006 ban of the death penalty, there was very minimal increase in the number of those convicted for murders and rapes, the 2 most frequent crimes punishable by death, with very little deviation from the yearly average of 2,558 incidences.

The slight increases are due of course to the increases in our country's population, which grew from 87 million in 2006 to 101 million in 2015. Indeed, for both 2016 when there was no death penalty, and 2005 when there was, the heinous crime rate per 100,000 population, was the same, at 2.8.

Lifting of capital punishment in 2006 had no impact on incidence of murder and rape.

The data therefore indisputably shows that the abolition of the death penalty had not encouraged more heinous crimes, contrary to the claims of the BuCor official and proponents of the death penalty.

The Philippine data isn't at all surprising: rigorous, scientific studies show that the death penalty has no impact on the incidence of heinous crimes. 2 studies in the United States that claimed to prove that the abolition of the death penalty increased murder rates in certain US states, were later proven to be "fundamentally flawed" by that country's National Research Council.

In fact, murder rates from 1900 to 2010 in American states in which there is no death penalty were even lower than in states with capital punishment. A 2009 survey of criminologists showed that over 88 % believed that the death penalty was not a deterrent to murder.

The issue is really so commonsensical. As Amnesty International has pointed out: "The threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, those who are in the grip of fear or rage, those who are panicking while committing another crime (such as a robbery), or those who suffer from mental illness or mental retardation and do not fully understand the gravity of their crime."

House opposition: Pointless to push for death penalty if Senate rejects it

Trigger-happy: President Rodrigo Duterte
Representative Raul Daza says the House debate on capital punishment will be 'moot and academic' if the Senate kills the death penalty bill Opposition lawmakers advised the House leadership to "pause and think" given that a majority of senators are not keen on passing the controversial death penalty bill.

In a press conference on Tuesday, February 14, Northern Samar 1st District Representative Raul Daza cited a resolution passed by 14 senators declaring that the Senate has a say in the termination of any treaty or international agreement.

During the Senate's first hearing on the proposed revival of capital punishment, anti-death penalty Senator Franklin Drilon forced a government lawyer to admit that restoring the death penalty is illegal under an international treaty that the Philippines ratified in 2007.

The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bans states party to it from reimposing capital punishment.

"So this raises a prejudicial question: Should the House now proceed on HB 4727 given that the Senate or a majority of the Senate has already put in writing their sentiment that we should not tamper with our treaty obligations without first according to the Senate due respect to look at how the bill will affect a treaty that has been ratified by it?" asked Daza.

He said that if the Senate ultimately decides to block the passage of the death penalty bill, all the efforts of the House leadership to push for the measure will be "moot and academic."

"I think the House leadership, given this new development, should pause and think. Because in the event that the Senate asserts its authority and expresses its sentiment to uphold and restate our treaty commitments under the protocol, which is that we committed not to reimpose the death penalty, the House bill now becomes moot and academic," said Daza.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is bent on ending the plenary debates on the death penalty by March 8. He had already warned congressmen that he would strip them of their leadership titles if they vote against HB 4727.

The Speaker also said he "does not care" if the Senate ends up blocking the bill so long as it is passed in the House. But Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman disagrees with Alvarez.

"This is a bicameral legislature. No one acts solely and independently of the other. So kailangan mangialam (you need to care) because of the bilateral nature of the Congress of the Philippines," said Lagman.

He also urged the House and Senate leadership to meet and iron out the differences in their approach to the reimposition of the death penalty.

"Otherwise, we in the House will be engaged in an exercise of futility if after all, the Senate will not approve any measure reimposing the death penalty," said Lagman.

Source: rappler.com, February 15, 2017

Minority solons to House leadeship: Pause, think about death penalty

An independent minority lawmaker called on the leadership of the House of Representatives to reconsider its support for the death penalty bill due to the country's treaty obligations for the abolition of capital punishment.

In a press conference at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza urged the House leadership to "pause and think" about the country's obligations to abolish the death penalty, the central issue that stalled the deliberations in the Senate.

Senators centered on the country's obligations to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which under the Second Optional Protocol states that "Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction."

Daza urged the members of the majority supporting the bill to allow Senate to first consider the treaty obligation, which if found valid would render the House bill seeking to restore the death penalty moot and academic.

"The House leadership, given this new development, should pause and think because in the event that the Senate asserts its authority to uphold and restate our treaty commitments under the protocol, the House bill becomes moot and academic," Daza said.

For his part, Albay Rep Edcel Lagman said the House should not waste its time on deliberatingon the death penalty if it would be an exercise in futility.

He called on the congressional leaders to meet and thresh out its differing positions on the death penalty.

"I'm urging the House as well as the Senate leadership to meet in order to iron out this particular difference. Otherwise, we in the House would be engaged in an exercise in futility if the Senate will not approve any measure reimposing death penalty," Lagman said.

The House bill is expected to limit crimes punishable with death to the most heinous, making the proposal more favorable to lawmakers, and indicating that the death penalty bill has better chances in the lower House than in the Senate.

House Bill 4727 restoring death penalty is seen to be a priority legislation in the House of Representatives.

The bill seeks to impose death penalty on more than 20 heinous offenses, such as rape with homicide, kidnapping for ransom and arson with death.

According to the original version of the bill, the following are punishable by death under the Revised Penal Code - treason, qualified piracy, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, infanticide, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with homicide, rape, intentional mutilation or arson and destructive arson.

Plunder is also punishable with reclusion perpetua to death according to the Republic Act 7080 or the plunder law as amended by Republic Act 7659.

Some lawmakers, however, believe plunder should not be punishable with death under the bill.

The following offenses under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act are also punishable with death - importation; sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation; maintenance of a den, dive or resort; manufacture; possession of certain quantities of dangerous drugs; cultivation; unlawful prescription; misappropriation or failure to account confiscated, seized or surrendered dangerous drugs; and planting of evidence.

Carnapping is also a criminal offense punishable with death under the Anti-Carnapping Act or Republic Act 6539.

Justice committee chairperson, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, said the House leadership is willing to reduce the list of crimes punishable under death only to the most heinous - drug trade and abuse, murder, kidnapping, carnapping and rape.

Umali said though that plunder may be removed from the list as it is not as heinous a crime as those committed against persons and life.

Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net, February 15, 2017

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