Human rights should not be sideswiped and children should not be put at risk of the death penalty amid the intensified war against illegal drugs and other crimes, Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo said on Tuesday.
Robredo, a lawyer, made this response after President Rodrigo Duterte vowed in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday that while human rights must work to uplift human dignity, human rights cannot be used as a shield or excuse to destroy the country.
Duterte cited his administration’s relentless operations against illegal drug peddlers won’t stop “until the last drug lord, the last financier, have surrendered, put behind bars or below the ground if they so wish.”
Meanwhile, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte has called for Congress’ support to immediate passage of bills restoring the death penalty and lowering the age of criminal liability for children from 15 to 9 years old.
“While I agree that human rights should not be used as an excuse to commit crime, let’s not forget that our Constitution remains the bastion of human rights. We should remember that this [Constitution highlighting human rights] is the core [basis]of all the steps we take in governance,” Robredo told reporters.
“The 1987 Constitution was drafted in a way that will remind us that the previous regime did not put so much weight on human rights,” she said, referring to the martial law rule of the late former president Ferdinand Marcos that victimized thousands of activists and government dissenters from 1972 until 1986.
At least 300 people suspected of being drug peddlers have been killed since Duterte emerged as the winner in the May presidential race.
In his maiden SONA, the President said the media should stop looking for big-fish drug peddlers because they are not in the country and that those who have been killed are delivery boys of the big-time drug lords.
Robredo said the ax should not fall on hapless children in the government’s ramped-up operations against criminality, including drug peddling.
“I am opposed to that, being one of those who pushed for the revised Juvenile Justice law. The age of criminality under the law is already efficient, and it scares me that since there are efforts to restore the death penalty, a child could be sentenced to death,” the Vice President, a lawyer, added.
“The [existing]age of criminal liability [of 15 years old]is something that was lengthily thought of. This was not chosen randomly among a set of numbers,” Robredo said.