"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Sunday, April 2, 2017

UN panel reminds Philippines: treaty commitment bars enactment of death penalty law

Expressing concern over the House of Representatives passage of a bill restoring capital punishment, a United Nations panel has reminded the Philippines there is no mechanism for it to withdraw its commitment to abolish the death penalty, under 2 international treaties to which it is a State Party.

The reminder, embodied in a letter by UN Human Rights Committee chair Yuji Iwasawa to the Philippines' Deputy Permanent Representative Maria Teresa Almojuela, was referring to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Second Optional Protocol aimed at abolishing the death penalty.

"The committee is currently in session in Geneva. It expressed its grave concern at information received aboout the passage of a bill through the Houses of Congress to reintroduce the death penalty for drug-related offenses in the Philippines. It understands that the Senate will consider this bill soon," Iwasawa wrote March 27.

The letter said the committee "reminds the State Party about denunciations of the Second Optional Protocol as set out in its General Comment No. 26 on Continuity of Obligations. The Optional Protocol excludes the possibility of denunciation by omitting a denunciation clause to guarantee the permanent re-introduction of the death penalty by States that have ratified it."

The UN panel also urged the Philippines "to take its obligations" under the ICCPR and the Second Optional Protocol "seriously, and refrain from taking retrogressive measures which would only undermine human rights to date."

The human rights committee is the monitoring body of the ICCPR and the Optional Protocols, which includes the Second Optional Protocol aimed at abolishing the death penalty.

"The Philippines is a State Party to all these treaties. In ratifying the Second Optional Protocol, States Parties guaranteed that no one will be executed within their jurisdiction," the letter to Manila pointed out.

The Philippines, through Republic Act 9346, had abolished in June 2006 capital punishment, during the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The latter, now a member of member of Congress as 2nd district representative for Pampanga, was 1 of the 54 who recently voted "no" against the bill reviving death penalty, as pushed by allies of President Duterte.

Macapagal-Arroyo led the list of House leaders who were stripped of their posts - she was Deputy Speaker - for voting "No" against the death penalty restoration.

While the bill was carried by the super-majority in the House, it however faces rough sailing in the Senate, with Senate President Koko Pimentel himself noting that the vote was too close to call, and could even split the chamber right down the middle.

Leaders of the new minority bloc, mostly from the Liberal Party, vowed to oppose it. Among their key reasons for opposing the death penalty restoration is precisely the need for the Philippines to adhere to its commitments as State Party to the ICCPR and the Second Optional Protocol.

The senators reminded the Executive that there is no renunciation mechanism for these treaties, and Manila stands the risk of sanctions if it impugns its commitments. However, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who led the push for the bill in the House, had scoffed at the notion that the Philippines cannot define or alter its own policy simply on account of a global commitment.

During the first Senate hearing on the House-led initiative, senators got an admission from government legal experts that, indeed, the commitments to international law formed part of the law of the land. This prompted Justice committee chair, Sen. Richard Gordon to raise the possibility that being in breach of such international laws could constitute an impeachable offense for the Executive.

Gordon decided to suspend further Senate hearings pending submission of a formal legal opinion by the Department of Justice.

Source: IOnterAksyon.com, April 1, 2017


Duterte, EU at war over death penalty


Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte has returned to a favorite topic and a favorite form of discourse, and criticized the European Union with violent, threatening language. "You fools. You sons of bitches. Stop interfering with us," he said at a news conference. "No one will tell you, so I will tell you: You are all fools."

Then followed the quote that was heard around the world: "I will just be happy to hang you. If I have the preference, I'll hang all of you."

Would that our Fearless Leader indulged his sense of outrage and took to the warpath against enemies deserving of the Filipino people's condemnation - perhaps a country like Russia, which supports both the murderous Assad government in Syria and the increasingly dictatorial Erdogan administration in Turkey.

Or perhaps - much closer to home - a country like China, which has buried its policy of a "peaceful rise" in the world and replaced it with a policy of assertive and overreaching nationalism. Criticizing Beijing would have the advantage of aligning with Philippine popular opinion about Chinese aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea.

But no. Duterte has chosen instead to continue his fight against the human rights hegemony of those terrifying, faceless, paper-pushing antideath bureaucrats in Brussels: "You are putting us down. You are exerting pressure in [sic] every country with the death penalty."

As far as we can tell, the President is grinding his much-used axe against the European Union again because the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the Philippines not to reimpose the death penalty and because the country's European allies and trading partners continue to voice their opposition to the Duterte administration's ultraviolent war on drugs.

In other words, the President's latest tirade is in defense of his administration, not of the country; it is in response to what he perceives to be criticism of his policies, and therefore of himself.

Retreating to Threats


The telltale sign that the criticism has gotten under his skin is the language that he uses; when he feels greatly offended he goes beyond the rhetoric of abuse (cursing the previous president of the United States or the present pope, for instance) and deploys the tropes of violence: "I will just be happy to hang you. If I have the preference, I'll hang all of you."

This is what people say when they've lost the argument - or when they cannot brook any argument.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, who once recommended that the public use its "creative imagination" when parsing the President's often intemperate statements, was reduced to explaining his principal's unstatesmanlike remarks against longstanding allies and partners as a symbolic expression. "I'm sure by this time we understand that it's more than being literal. He basically speaks about an attitude of, you know, emphasizing that we should be left alone to be able to do our part."

We note that President Duterte approves publicly of Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping in part because they don't criticize his war on drugs for human rights violations.

But we also note that the President knows his people well enough to know that he cannot make his fight with the European Union and with European allies and partners solely about death vs life. That would be an ultimately losing proposition. As even the surveys show, a great majority of Filipinos want due process to be followed; they do not want mere suspects killed.

So President Duterte uses the Western history card. He traces EU opposition to the death penalty to Western imperialism and the massive death toll of 2 world wars. "Your guilt, your conscience, is almost genetics. It is passed on from generation to generation."

This is macabre, and downright mistaken. Modern opposition to the death penalty is based on the experience of all of humanity; that experience shows that the penalty claims the lives of mostly poor people. Reimposing it is a backward step - like going back to hanging.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, Editorial desk, April 1, 2017


UN body to Phl: Stop death penalty revival


A monitoring body of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) has called on the Philippine government to junk the proposal to reinstate the death penalty in the country and abide by its international commitments.

In a letter to Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maria Teresa Almojuela, Human Rights Committee (HRC) chairman Yuji Iwasawa reminded the Philippines that it is a party to the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR that prohibits the imposition of capital punishment.

"The committee is currently in session in Geneva. It expresses grave concern at information it has received about the passage of a bill through the House of Congress to reintroduce death penalty, for drug related offenses, in the Philippines," read the letter dated March 27.

"It understands that the Senate will consider this bill soon," it added.

The letter was also addressed to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.

Iwasawa said he regrets the recent development in the Philippines and urged the government to desist from ultimately passing the measure.

"On behalf of the committee, I call on (the Philippines) to take its obligations under the ICCPR and the Second Optional Protocol seriously and refrain from taking retrogressive measures, which would only undermine human rights progress to date," he said.

Last month, the House of Representatives passed on third reading the bill that imposes the death penalty on drug related offenses.

In an earlier statement, UN special rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and Nils Melzer expressed concern over the passage of the proposal at the House of Representatives.

"If approved, the bill will set the Philippines starkly against the global trend towards abolition and would entail a violation of the country's obligations under international law," they said.

Callamard is the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, while Melzer is the special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

They reminded the Philippines of its obligation under the second optional protocol of the ICCPR.

"Not only was the treaty ratified and widely advertised, but state authorities have also expressly confirmed on numerous occasions its validity and binding nature on the Philippines, without raising any concerns over the procedure through which it had been ratified," the rapporteurs said.

Source: Philippine Star, April 1, 2017

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