“No country wants to be responsible for violating international law and considered unlawful particularly with laws that have been voluntarily ratified. It paints a picture of inconsistency, reduces the credibility of state responsibility and genuinely undermines the rule of law.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Reinstating the death penalty in the country would breach the international obligations of the Philippine government.
In an online forum organized by human rights groups Karapatan on Saturday, Oct. 10, Bronwyn Dudley of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty said that if the death penalty in the Philippines would be enacted into law once again, it would constitute a serious violation of international covenants and other human rights instruments which the Philippines has ratified.
In this year’s State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte once again call for the swift passage of a law seeking the reimposition of death penalty through lethal injection for offenses under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
At present, there are 12 bills pending at the House of Representatives, seeking to revive the death penalty in the country.
Dudley said that the Philippines cannot simple turn its back against the international commitments that it has signed.
Prior to the Second Optional Protocol, the Philippines has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1986. Dudley said Article 6 of the ICCPR, has focused on the right to life as well as death penalty.
The Second Optional Protocol, on the other hand, aims for the abolition of death penalty in all countries. In Article 1, it stated that “Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.”
In General Comment 36, issued by the United Nations in 2018, explains further the Article 6 of the ICCPR and the Second Optional Protocol. It states in number 34 of the General Comment that “States parties to the Covenant that have abolished the death penalty, through amending their domestic laws, becoming parties to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant or adopting another international instrument obligating them to abolish the death penalty, are barred from reintroducing it.” It added, “Abolition of the death penalty is therefore legally irrevocable.”
“No country wants to be responsible for violating international law and considered unlawful particularly with laws that have been voluntarily ratified. It paints a picture of inconsistency, reduces the credibility of state responsibility and genuinely undermines the rule of law,” Dudley said.
With the filing of numerous bills on death penalty at the House of Representatives, the UN Human Rights Committee has sent an open letter to the Senate in 2017 reminding the Philippines of its commitment and the irreversibility of the commitments made, Dudley said.
In the said letter, the Human Rights Committee called on the “State party to take its obligation under the ICCPR and the Second Optional Protocol seriously and refrain from taking retrogressive measures, which would only undermine human rights progress to date.”
Dudley added that returning death penalty in the country would certainly have consequences such as the withdrawal of the Philippines’ GSP+ status at the European Union.
With these international commitments, lawyer and former dean of Ateneo School of Government, Antonio La Viña, said “this is the formidable obstacle for Congress because to adopt death penalty would violate the international commitments that we adhere to.”
“Besides the technological point of view, there is no just and humane way that the death penalty can be imposed,” La Viña said.
La Viña also expressed hopes that the proposed measures pending in Congress will not be passed this year. However, he emphasized that the people should be vigilant. “This is a winnable fight but we have to be very vigilant,” he said.
The death penalty in the country was abolished in 1987. It was revived during the administration of President Fidel Ramos in 1993. After more than a decade, in 2007 under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the capital punishment was once abolished. It is also in the same year that the Philippine government has ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.