Current Issue: Volume 55, Number 1

Philippines’ Recent Proposal to Reinstate Death Penalty: A Setback to Worldwide Progress Towards the Abolition of Capital Punishment?

The debate surrounding the death penalty has recaptured the attention of the international legal community. On the same day that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged member States to move forward with the abolition of the death penalty on March 1, the Philippines House of Representatives approved a proposal to reinstate the death penalty, almost eleven years since ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced a moratorium on its application. Under the proposal, rape, murder, and certain drug offenses will be subject to capital punishment. Significantly, these drug-related offences include the import, sale, manufacture, delivery and distribution of narcotics, among others. The bill still faces additional hurdles before becoming effective. To pass muster, the bill requires approval by the Senate, followed by a ruling of the Justice Department on whether it contravenes the country’s commitment to international conventions, and finally the signature of the president. However, given the proposal constitutes an important part of President Duterte’s political campaign and both the Senate and the justice secretary (President Duterte’s fraternity brother) are allies of the president, the likelihood that the bill will pass is high. According to the bill, capital punishment would be carried out by hanging, firing squad, or lethal injection. Opponents of the bill have argued that the proposed law violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by the Philippines in 1986. Instead of fully rejecting the legitimacy of the death penalty, ICCPR is carefully formulated to treat the use of capital punishment as an exception to the right to life. Article 6 of ICCPR, which provided the legal basis for judicial capital... read more