Rights lawyers oppose death penalty revival

HUMAN rights lawyers have expressed their strong opposition toward efforts by the incoming administration to revive the death penalty for heinous crimes and implement a “shoot-to-kill” policy for suspected criminals who violently resist arrest.

In a statement, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) said President-elect Rodrigo Duterte would violate the Constitution and the international law if he pushed through with the said plans.

“These actions are illegal and unconstitutional, rendering our legal system impotent and meaningless, and blatantly violate international law,” FLAG Chairman Jose Diokno said.

Diokno also said the death penalty and shoot-to-kill policy are anti-poor, stressing that more than 80 percent of the Filipinos are poor.

“Seventy-three percent of the 1,121 inmates on death row before the death penalty was abolished in 2006 earned less than P10,000 a month,” he added. “Eighty-one percent, in addition, worked in low-income jobs as sales, service, factory, agricultural, transport or construction workers. If these numbers are any indication, it is those who live in poverty who will suffer the most if the death penalty is restored.”

Diokno also said that it is always the poor who bear the brunt of wrongful death penalty convictions.

Citing a data from the Supreme Court, Diokno said that 71 percent of the death sentences handed down by the trial courts were wrongfully imposed. This means that seven out of 10 convicts on death row-most of them poor-were wrongfully convicted and did not deserve to be there.

“The poor are vulnerable to the death penalty because they have no voice, no money, no power, and lack the resources to hire good lawyers,” he stressed. “For exactly the same reasons, they will also be vulnerable to the proposed ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy of the President-elect.”

Diokno also noted the death penalty and shoot-to-kill policy-coupled with Duterte’s plan to employ death by hanging until the head is completely severed from the body-reflect a callous disregard for human dignity not befitting a country’s chief executive.

He also said the death penalty and shoot-to-kill policy will not deter crime, stressing that advocating state-sanctioned killings is not just anti-poor but anti-life.

“What the country needs is a better justice system-not a new one based on the barrel of a gun,” he added.

Diokno said the Philippine government signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on Sept. 20, 2006 and ratified it on Nov. 20, 2007.

The Second Optional Protocol “is the only international treaty of worldwide scope to prohibit executions and to provide for total abolition of the death penalty,” he added. States that ratify the Second Optional Protocol “are required to renounce the use of the death penalty definitively.”

Diokno stressed that Duterte is bound by the Second Optional Protocol.

The Philippines would, if it reintroduced the death penalty, be the only nation to have abolished it and reintroduced it twice, and the only nation to reintroduce it after having made a commitment to abolish it by ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“If the Philippines reinstates capital punishment after having ratified the Second Optional Protocol, the country would be condemned for violating international law. It would be a great stigma,” Diokno explained.

Diokno also said that the shoot-to-kill policy disregards rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

The 1987 Constitution categorically mandates that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Constitution further guarantees the right to be presumed innocent, to be heard, to counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him/her, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his/her behalf.

“These rights are brushed aside by the shoot-to-kill policy,” Diokno noted.

“The shoot-to-kill policy gives unbridled discretion to law enforcement officers to take the law into their own hands and act as judge, jury, and executioner. It contravenes Article 110-3 of the Revised Penal Code which authorizes police officers to use deadly force only when it is reasonably necessary,” he added.

Source: Manila Time