Death penalty bill, a nightmare for poor and victims of State repression

“Karapatan strongly condemns the railroading of the death penalty bill which is on its third and final reading today. The bill, pushed through the House majority’s threats of removal from posts and a subsequent voting mechanism which disallows accountability of congressmen, will add to the repressive State policies that will mostly affect the poor and marginalized, in a justice system that acquits the wealthy and convicts the poor,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, on the issue of the approval of the death penalty bill at the House of Representatives today, March 7. 

The current version of the death penalty bill includes only drug-related offenses, done in part to supposedly facilitate the fast approval of the bill in support of the administration’s renewed drug war. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez added that “piecemeal death penalty bills’” will be passed to cover all heinous crimes such as rape, murder, plunder.  

“Apart from violating the right to life and absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which the country has enshrined in its Constitution and the international covenants it is party to, re-imposing death penalty as punishment is a political nightmare for the poor and the victims of State repression such as the political prisoners,” Palabay continued.  

Palabay added that “there are currently 402 political prisoners in the country, all slapped with trumped-up charges of common crimes. At least 71 of them have already been wrongly convicted. The possibility of them being subjected to death row after years of imprisonment furthers the injustice that they are experiencing.”

“Though the current bill only limits capital punishment to drug cases, previous incidents has taught us how easy it is for the police and the military to fabricate cases, through planting of evidence and presentation of military-backed witnesses, in their attempt to silence political activists and those deemed by the State as its enemies,” Palabay said, citing the cases of four members of a local peasant organization charged with drug cases in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. Their cases were eventually dismissed for lack of probable cause.  

Karapatan challenged the Duterte government to undergo substantial reforms aimed at improving the living conditions of Filipinos, instead of advocating for laws that are a disservice to the marginalized. 

“Success with regard to eradication and elimination of crimes do not come in the railroading of bills to facilitate the ‘lawful’ killing of persons, but in long-term, comprehensive and fundamental solutions. Karapatan reiterates that the upholding of people’s economic, social and cultural rights is a far more effective deterrent than scare and fear tactics. This oppressive and repressive system is what breeds crime and addressing its root causes is what will ultimately solve criminality,” ended Palabay.