THE Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights will resume its hearings on a proposal to revive death penalty in the country only after the Department of Justice (DoJ) submits its legal opinion on the matter.
Senator Richard Gordon, committee chairman, suspended last Friday’s hearing on the death penalty bill after the issue of ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was raised there.
In raising the issue, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon noted that the Philippines would renege on its treaty obligations if Congress approved the death penalty bill.
The ICCPR compels the Philippines and other signatory states to respect and observe fundamental freedoms, among them, freedom from arbitrary deprivation of life and freedom from cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment.
The Philippines is also a party to the Second Optional Protocol on September 20, 2006 and its Annex was ratified on November 20, 2007.
This protocol explicitly forbids the signatory states, including the Philippines, from conducting executions within their respective jurisdictions.
Gordon moved to suspend the hearing until such time that the DoJ comes out with its position on the matter.
According to him, the hands of Congress are tied where the death penalty is concerned because of obligations of the country under international treaties against capital punishment.
At present, Gordon said, his committee has not received a response from the Justice department that would enable the committee to proceed with the hearings.
But apart from the DoJ opinion, he said he wants to give proponents of the bill the opportunity to participate in committee discussions, particularly Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao, who filed a number of proposed measures on the restoration of the capital punishment.
Gordon added that Pacquiao, also a professional boxer, would not be able to participate in the committee hearings because he is busy training for his fight in July.
In order to give all the parties concerned time, he said, it would be better if the committee scheduled the resumption of hearings on the death penalty upon Congress’ resumption of its second regular session in July.
Gordon is one of at least 13 senators who are against the revival of the death penalty in the country.
He said he is not sure if they have the numbers to reject the bill.
Sen. Francis Escudero, who is also against capital punishment, recently said the position of every senator could still change especially with the proposal to just limit the death penalty to drug trafficking.
Meanwhile, Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th challenged anti-death penalty advocates to work hard in persuading 60 percent of pro-death penalty Filipinos to change their stand.
“We have a lot of work to do to convince our fellow countrymen that its [death penalty]revival will not solve the country’s pressing problems and will only lead to injustice to the poor,” Aquino said during the “Lakbay Buhay Laban sa Death Penalty” program at the University of Santo Tomas on Sunday.
A recent Social Weather Stations survey showed that 60 percent of Filipinos support the government’s move to revive the death penalty as deterrent to crime.
Aquino contradicted the view and insisted that only the poor will suffer from injustice because they lack capability to defend themselves in court.
He said there is enough time for those against the death penalty to conduct more marches and activities to educate Filipinos about the truth on the capital punishment.