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Punishment designed to eliminate critics, rights defenders

The human rights watchdog Karapatan has warned that any measure seeking to revive death penalty, once enacted, “would only be a legislative fiat for this murderous regime’s rabid ‘kill, kill, kill’ policy against the poor and human rights defenders.”

Karapatan made the pitch before the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives as it hears the proposals to reimpose the death penalty for those convicted of drug trafficking and other heinous crimes.

"It’s simply ironic for a regime hell-bent on killing to reimpose death penalty when it is already leading a bloody campaign of mass murder against the poor and the marginalized in the name of the sham war on drugs and against activists in its so-called counterinsurgency campaigns. Are the thousands of dead bodies and broken families still not enough for this fascist regime’s murderous rampage? When will the killings stop?” asked Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 27, President Duterte called on Congress to pass a law reimposing death penalty through lethal injection for offenses under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

Twelve bills seeking to revive capital punishment are currently pending before the Lower House, with some bills proposing to carry out the death sentence through lethal injection, hanging or firing squad.

Clamor said the death penalty “is cruel and brutal punishment that violates international human rights instruments such as the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and is ineffective in deterring the crimes it seeks to punish; the death penalty will victimize the most vulnerable in the country and it can and will be weaponized against imprisoned human rights defenders, activists, and political dissenters — many of whom are falsely charged with serious and heinous crimes.”

In a position paper submitted before the Committee on Justice, Karapatan cited local and international studies which show that “death penalty disproportionately impacts on the poor sectors in Philippine society who were in death row due to various economic and social drivers” and that “what has been clearly illustrated in several studies, research, and surveys is the assertion that capital punishment simply does not effectively deter crimes.”

“In a bankrupt and corrupt justice system that favors the moneyed and powerful, death penalty will only increase the fascist attacks against the poor and political dissenters and allow them to be committed with even more impunity. Under such a system, the death penalty, contrary to assertions that it seeks to protect human life, is actually a heinous violation of the right to life and the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment,” the Karapatan officer continued.

“Karapatan strongly asserts that the reimposition of death penalty in a bankrupt criminal justice system such as ours will not and will never curb nor eliminate crimes in the country — and only when the underlying and systemic causes of crime are addressed with significant and comprehensive social, economic, and political reforms that uphold people’s rights and welfare can crimes actually be reduced or eliminated,” Clamor concluded. [MNB]

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