Philippines: Amnesty slams lawmakers’ approval of death penalty Bill
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Philippines: Amnesty slams lawmakers’ approval of death penalty Bill

PHILIPPINES’ move to revive the death penalty sets the country on a “dangerous path in flagrant violation” of its international legal obligations, according to human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

The group slammed the adoption of the draft law by the Philippine House of Representatives, which overwhelmingly approved the Bill on Tuesday to re-impose capital punishment.

Amnesty director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Champa Patel said the idea the death penalty would keep the country’s crime and drug problem in check was “simply wrong”.

“It is an inhumane, ineffective punishment and is never the solution,” Patel said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Philippines’ attempts to reintroduce it are clearly unlawful. This will just earn the country notoriety as one of the few countries to revive its horrific use.”

Voting 216 to 54 with one abstention, lawmakers passed the third and final reading of the Bill, clearing another hurdle in President Rodrigo Duterte’s drive to use death as a deterrent against crime.

The draft that gained approval is a watered-down version of the original and has been amended to exclude crimes like rape, kidnap-for-ransom and plunder.

SEE ALSO: Philippines: House overwhelmingly approves re-imposition of death penalty

The Bill, which permits death by hanging, firing squad and lethal injection, must now go to the Senate, according to a Reuters report on Tuesday.

“The Senate is now the Philippines’ last real hope of upholding its international obligations and rescuing the country from this backwards step,” Patel said

The draft law was passed amid over 8,000 deaths since Duterte was sworn into office last June, many through extrajudicial executions in the country’s “drug war”.

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A drug suspect lies lifeless after a shooting in the Philippines. Duterte’s drug war has claimed over 7,000 lives so far. Source: Reuters/Czar Dancel

Amnesty International has long opposed the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances.

The group points out under international law, the death penalty must be restricted to the most serious crimes, but drug-related crimes “do not meet this threshold”.

The group also argues there is no evidence the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect.

“The death penalty for alleged drug offenders, like extrajudicial executions, violates international law, deprives people of the right to life, and disproportionately targets the poor,” Patel said.

SEE ALSO: Philippines: One day after death penalty vote, House endorses medical marijuana

After World War II, the death penalty has been imposed on and off in the country.

Since then, dozens of convicts were executed by electric chair between 1950 and 1986.

A year later, the death penalty was abolished, but restored in 1993 under President Fidel Ramos, before being scrapped again in 2006.

Amnesty pointed out in 2007, the Philippines ratified an international treaty which categorically prohibited executions and committed the country to the abolition of the death penalty.

Legally, it said, the obligation could not be withdrawn at any time.

Since 2006, the Philippines has been a strong advocate against capital punishment and has championed several initiatives to this end in international forums.

The rights group said the Philippines had also defended its nationals abroad, such as overseas workers, from being served the death sentence.

“If the Philippines authorities want to deal with the root causes of drug-related offences, they should support humane, voluntary, health-focused and evidence-based policies as an alternative,” Patel said.

According to Amnesty, 141 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice as of today.

It said in the Asia Pacific region, 19 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes and a further eight were abolitionist in practice.