HUMAN rights lawyers have expressed their strong opposition to the plan of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to revive the death penalty for heinous crimes and implement a “shoot-to-kill” policy against suspected criminals who violently resisting arrest.
In a statement, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) said Duterte will violate the constitution and international law if he pursues his plan.
“These actions are illegal and unconstitutional, render our legal system impotent and meaningless, and blatantly violate international law,” FLAG chairman Jose Diokno said.
Diokno noted that the death penalty and “shoot-to-kill” policy are anti-poor, stressing that more than eighty percent of 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. 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.,” he said.
Diokno also said that the poor bore the brunt of wrongful death penalty convictions.
Citing data from the Supreme Court, he said that 71 percent of the death sentences handed down by the trial courts were wrongfully imposed. This means that 7 out of 10 convicts on death row were wrongfully convicted.
“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. For exactly the same reasons, they will also be vulnerable to the proposed “shoot-to-kill” policy of the President-elect,” the lawyer explained.
Diokno noted that death by hanging reflects a callous disregard for human dignity not befitting a country’s chief executive.
He 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 Philippines signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on September 20, 2006 and ratified it on November 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.” States that ratify the Second Optional Protocol are required to renounce the use of the death penalty definitively.
He said 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 having made a commitment to abolishing 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 said.
Diokno also said that a shoot-to-kill policy disregards rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
The Constitution, he noted, 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.
“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,” Diokno said.