Karapatan opposes death penalty bill in Congress

“Karapatan strongly denounces attempts to re-impose the death penalty in our deeply flawed criminal justice system. The death penalty is essentially a legislative fiat to the current spate of extrajudicial killings in the country, which will mostly affect the poor who have far less or no access to resources to defend themselves before courts. In the context of a bankrupt and corrupt justice system that favors the moneyed and powerful people, the death penalty will only increase the prevalence of impunity and fascist attacks against the poor,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, as the House of Representatives holds its plenary debates today on House Bill 4727 or the bill imposing the death penalty. 


Karapatan said that, under such a system, the death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 

“The death penalty will also significantly impact on human rights defenders, activists and political dissenters, when the executive branch, Congress, military, police, prosecutors and courts collude to criminalize the exercise of political beliefs and political actions that seek to institute meaningful and comprehensive reforms and change,” Palabay stated. 

Almost all political prisoners, she said, are charged with trumped up criminal offenses such as murder, destructive arson, kidnapping, carnapping, and recently, drug-related charges, to hide the political nature of their arrest and detention and to stigmatize them as ‘criminals’ to the public. According to Karapatan documentation, at least 249 out of the 392 political prisoners were slapped with fabricated murder cases and are arrested and detained through John/Jane Doe and alias warrants, the spurious filing of cases with defective warrants and perjured testimonies of hired witnesses by the military and common practice of planting of evidence.

“With this measure, there is danger that political prisoners will be dealt with capital punishment, when they should be released on just grounds,” Palabay explained. 

“Justice in this kind of system remains elusive to the victims and families of crimes and human rights abuses, as long as the laws and the agencies and institutions who implement and interpret laws are corrupt and lawless themselves,” she said. 

“Death penalty in a bankrupt criminal justice system will not curb nor eliminate crimes in the country. Only when the underlying causes of crime are dealt with significant and comprehensive social, economic, and political reforms that uphold people’s rights and welfare can crimes be reduced or eliminated,” ended Palabay.