PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte will certify as urgent a bill seeking to restore the death penalty for drug trafficking, plunder and other heinous crimes, his spokesman said yesterday.
“If you ask him, death by hanging is cheaper,” presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said at a briefing in Manila. “But I think we will stick with the old method of using lethal injection,” he said in Filipino.
Mr. Duterte in his annual address to Congress on Monday said drug traffickers must be put to death, noting that the illegal drug menace persists despite his deadly war on drugs that has killed thousands.
“I am aware that we still have a long way to go in our fight against this social menace,” the president told lawmakers. “That’s the reason why I advocate the imposition of the death penalty for crimes related to illegal drugs.”
Reinstating capital punishment will be among the priority bills of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III told reporters.
“If it is confined to high-level drug trafficking, it stands a good chance,” the senator said. “It could be a squeaker, but it could pass in the Senate.”
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo I . Guevarra said capital punishment might deter some serious crimes.
“The fear of being put to death for the commission of a crime will naturally prompt a criminally minded person to think twice,” he said in a text message.
Philippine National Police chief General Oscar D. Albayalde for his part said something needs to be done to the justice system to ensure innocent people won’t suffer. Law enforcers, he added, make mistakes during operations.
Being able to execute criminals “will be a game changer in our continuing campaign against illegal drugs,” he said, even as he admitted that Congress won’t restore the death penalty without putting safeguards.
The Philippines became the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, but it was reintroduced in late 1993 for 46 different offenses, according to Amnesty International.
Executions resumed in 1999 after 23 years, according to the London-based group focused on human rights. Former President Joseph E. Estrada in 2000 announced a halt on executions, which his successor ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo continued.
The Philippines under Mrs. Arroyo again suspended capital punishment in 2006 through a law. Before that, she commuted the death sentences of 1,230 inmates to life imprisonment, which Amnesty International said was the “largest ever commutation of death sentences.”
In 2007, the country became a party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding the abolition of the death penalty.
“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment,” Amnesty International said on its website. “Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception — regardless of who is accused, the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution.” — Vann M. Villegas, Vince Angelo C. Ferreras and Arjay L. Balinbin