Philippines: the ICJ condemns approval on 3rd reading of the death penalty bill by the House of Representatives

Bangkok, Thailand – The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today condemned the move of the Philippines’ House of Representatives to reintroduce the death penalty for drug-related crimes.

The ICJ has called on the country’s Senate to block this serious threat to human rights.

Earlier today, the House of Representatives approved House Bill 4727 on third and final reading by 216​ votes. Fifty-four (54) voted “no”, and one abstained. The bill as amended reinstates the death penalty for drug-related crimes, more than 10 years after the Philippines had legally abandoned executions.

The approved bill will be transmitted to the Senate, where it will go through the same procedure of three readings.

“The passage of the death penalty bill in the Philippine House of Representatives represents a turning point in the country, but one that is for the worse. It puts the Philippines in direct conflict with its international legal obligations,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia.

“Now it’s up to the Philippine Senate to stop this terrible and unconscionable move and preserve the Philippines’ status as a regional leader against the death penalty,” Gil added.

Since 2007, the Philippines has been a Party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), requiring all parties to abolish the death penalty in law and practice. Under the ICCPR and the Second Protocol, States are prohibited from bringing back the death penalty once it has been abolished in domestic laws.

“Passing this law will send a negative message to the international community that the Philippines is incapable of observing in good faith the international obligations it has expressly bound itself to,” Gil said.

Ever since it abolished the death penalty in 2006, the Philippines has been viewed by many observers as a regional and global leader on the drive to abolish capital punishment. Not only was it the very first Southeast Asian country to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, it also played an instrumental role in advocating for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide. Since 2007, it has consistently co-sponsored multiple UN General Assembly resolutions calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to its total abolition. These resolutions have been adopted with large majorities.

“The Duterte administration had already engaged in hundreds, if not thousands, of extrajudicial killings justified by unsubstantiated claims that such wholesale crimes will somehow respond to the country’s drug problem. The resumption of the death penalty compounds the horrors of this bloody campaign without any evidence whatsoever that this odious practice will in any way improve the alleged drug problem in the country,” Gil said.

Rather than the death penalty, studies have demonstrated that heightened enforcement efforts which increase the chances of actually being caught and punished are more effective in deterring criminal conduct.

The ICJ therefore calls on the Senate of the Philippines to reject in full the bill seeking to re-impose the death penalty in the country in accordance with the Philippines’ international obligations.

Media contact:
Ms. Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser, tel. no. +66 840923575 OR email: [email protected]

Background:
The bill approved by the House of Representatives (Lower House) will be transmitted to the Senate (Upper House), where it will go through the same procedure of three readings. If the bill is approved upon the third reading at the Senate without amendments, it will be presented to the President. The bill would become a law if and when it is signed by the President. If, however, there are amendments on the bill at the Senate and the House of Representatives do not agree with these amendments, the differences would be settled by a Conference Committee of both Houses. The recommendations of the Conference Committee would have to be approved by both Houses.