Parliamentarians from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have expressed alarm at what appears to be an attempt by the Duterte administration and its allies at the House of Representatives to railroad the re-imposition of death penalty in the country.
“As lawmakers from across Southeast Asia, we stand opposed to the reintroduction of capital punishment in the Philippines, and we urge our counterparts in the Philippine Congress to reject the bill currently before them that would legalize the practice,” Asean parliamentarians said in a solidarity statement.
Describing the death penalty as a “barbaric and outdated” form of punishment, they instead urged the Philippines and Asean to think about reforms, preventive measures and rehabilitation, as ways of deterring crimes instead of the old “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” doctrine.
“The death penalty is a barbaric and outdated form of punishment and represents the kind of policy our region should be moving away from, not back toward. The bill currently before the House of Representatives puts the Philippines’ international credibility at risk, as well as the stunning progress made in the past decade toward the eradication of capital punishment globally,” they stressed.
The Asean lawmakers said they support Philippine legislators who are fighting the bill in their principled struggle, which is based on strong evidence that this policy is wrong for the country.
Death penalty is one of the priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte.
A senator-ally of the Duterte administration, however, reaffirmed his support for the capital punishment, saying it is the best way to give justice to victims of heinous crimes.
According to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian,he wanted death penalty to be imposed only on offenses involving sexual exploitation of children, and offenses involving large quantities of illegal drugs.
“Bringing back the death penalty is the best way to send child rapists and drug lords on the one-way express to hell,” he stressed.
Gatchalian said he believes that child rapists and drug lords should “not be forgiven” as these crimes cause what he described as “irreparable damage” to the country.
“Criminals who wage war against the fundamental values of our society by polluting it with drugs and sexual violence against children cannot be rehabilitated, and they should not be forgiven. Child rapists and drug lords are beyond saving. They must be put to death,” he added.
Gatchalian pointed out that the Constitution bestowed upon Congress the power to reimpose the death penalty for compelling reasons to punish heinous crimes.
He stressed the social impact of illegal drugs in the Philippines is “compelling enough” and urged his fellow lawmakers to take notice of the public clamor to revive the death penalty.
The senator claimed that credible private surveys have shown that four out of five Filipinos support the move to bring back capital punishment.
“As representatives of the people, we must give them the justice they demand,” Gatchalian said.
Despite his strong support for executing child rapists, pornographers, exploiters and other sexual offenders, Gatchalian said he is open to Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III’s proposal to limit the re-imposition of the death penalty to large-scale drug offenses.
He said limiting the scope of the new death penalty law to cover only offenses involving large quantities of illegal drugs might be the only “realistic” way to get the bill through the divided Senate.
“I will support the compromise if that’s the case,” he added.
To date, Sotto, Gatchalian and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao have openly expressed support for the re-imposition of death penalty, authoring bills to revive the capital punishment.
Five senators belonging to the Liberal Party namely Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon, Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan have openly expressed being against death penalty.
Senators Richard Gordon, Grace Poe are also against the capital punishment.