‘Reinstating death penalty to institutionalize carnage of the poor’

“As several research, surveys, and studies clearly show, capital punishment is an ineffective deterrent to crime — contrary to the propositions of those advocating for its reimposition.”

Related story: Reinstating death penalty goes against PH’s international commitments


MANILA – Rights groups and advocates reiterated their opposition against the planned reimposition of capital punishment in the Philippines as the world commemorates the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty on Oct. 10.

Human rights group Karapatan asserts that death penalty is “a visibly anti-poor policy which disproportionately impacts the poor and marginalized sectors in our society.”

In a statement, Roneo Clamor, deputy secretary general of Karapatan, said, “As several research, surveys, and studies clearly show, capital punishment is an ineffective deterrent to crime — contrary to the propositions of those advocating for its reimposition.”

President Duterte has urged the Congress to pass a law seeking the reimposition of death penalty through lethal injection for offenses under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act last July during his State of the Nation Address.

This is despite international laws that prohibit the revival of death penalties in countries that have abolished it. The Philippines has abolished death penalty in 2007.

Death penalty only affects the poor

In an online forum entitled “Death Penalty Redux: Legislating Death in the Philippines,” lawyer Erwin Caliba of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) cited the bases why the death penalty only affects the poor.

Citing the survey conducted by the CHR and the Social Weather Station (SWS) in 2018, Caliba said 63 percent of the respondents agree that majority of individuals on death row are poor and cannot afford a good lawyer. Fifty-six percent of the respondents agree that only the poor are sentenced with death penalty and not the rich.

A 2004 survey of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) which involves 1,121 death row inmates found that “the profile of death row is the profile of the poor in Philippine society: largely uneducated, largely unemployed and generally living in poverty.”

The survey further showed that the highest educational attainment of the inmates is elementary education. About a third of all death row convicts are farm workers while only 16 percent are professionals. The survey also found that 52 percent of the convicts earn below the minimum wage.

Caliba also said that poor suspects do not have the resources to hire competent lawyers.

“While the fundamental law gives the right to independent and competent counsel to his or her own choice, poor litigants cannot hire their own lawyers. Thus, the court appoints counsel de officio who may not be necessarily competent to handle the case or who may have been already swamped with many cases. Thus more often, poor persons may not receive fair trials due to incompetent, inexperience, and ineffective counsel,” he said.

Should death penalty be reimposed, Caliba said, “the same story against the poor will be weaved and at the stories we have already heard before especially in the context of drug war where many of the poor are already incarcerated and waiting for trial.”

Clamor said this is why they are against the reimposition of the death penalty as it will only “institutionalize the already ongoing State-sanctioned carnage of the poor.”

Clamor also pointed out that Drug Archive Philippines research shows that majority of those who were killed in the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign have low paying and low skilled work such as tricycle drivers, pedicab drivers, construction workers. He added that based on the same research, the place of residence or occupation of those who were killed clearly indicates that they were poor.

While proponents of the death penalty have been pushing for the reinstatement of the said measure, they have not cited a credible research or study conducted to support the claim that it will curb criminality.

“What has been clearly illustrated in several studies, research and survey is the assertion that capital punishment simply does not deter crimes,” he said.

“The UN has undertaken comprehensive studies and survey on the relationship within death penalty and homicide. It concludes that research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment,” he added.

Clamor also said that “With a justice system that favors the moneyed and the powerful, death penalty will only increase the attacks against the poor.”

“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 of the people,” he added.

‘Courts make mistakes too’

Caliba also said that the courts make mistakes too about the people’s guilt.

He said in the People vs. Mateo, the Supreme Court has acknowledged the judicial error. In People vs. Mateo, the SC said that for from 1993 to June 2004, there are 907 out of 1,493 cases that were submitted to the High Court for review. In this review, he said the SC found a judicial error of 71.77 percent.

He said the review saved the life of 651 out of the 907 appellants.

“Justices, judges and lawyers are human beings hence bound to error. The decisions are bound by their innate human limitations consequently there can be no infallibility of courts and the high tribunal. Once judicial error is committed and execution is carried out there is no reversing the outcome,” he said.

Meanwhile, Karapatan has launched its online petition against the reimposition of death penalty in the Philippines.

Clamor encouraged everyone to sign the unity statement against the reimposition of death penalty for the legislation to hear the voice of the people. “Let this effort reach the Philippine Congress for them to rethink and reconsider our clamor against death penalty,” he said. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

Share This Post