Press Release
July 25, 2019

De Lima rejects renewed calls for death penalty revival

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has rejected Mr. Duterte's call for Congress to revive the death penalty law which she said is not only "elitist" and "anti-poor" but also a "misdirected mindset" in resolving worsening criminality in the country.

De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, and a staunch anti-death penalty advocate, made the rebuke in her Commentary to Mr. Duterte's Midterm State of the Nation Address (SONA) entitled "No Fight Left Inside Duterte," released last July 24.

"The simplistic equation that death penalty will result in greater crime deterrence reflects an elitist, anti-poor and misdirected mindset. It also glosses over the fact that we have a deeply flawed justice system which is prone to errors, such as wrongful guilty verdicts," she said.

In his 4th State of the Nation Address before a joint session of Congress last July 22, Duterte asked Congress to reinstate death penalty for "heinous crimes related to illegal drugs and plunder." It was the first priority legislative measure he mentioned in his speech.

Duterte and his allies in Congress have consistently pushed for the reinstatement of death penalty - which was brought back under then president Fidel Ramos' administration but abolished anew under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In the 17th Congress, a measure reinstating the death penalty for heinous crimes, including drug-related offenses, has been approved at the House of Representatives but has yet to be tackled at the committee level at the Senate.

The lady Senator from Bicol said Mr. Duterte has consistently pushed for the re-instatement of death penalty law to legalize the murder of the poor who have always been the target of his bloody war on drugs.

"Duterte is not content with the implementation of an EJK policy in his war against the poor. He wants executions to be institutionalized anew in order to legalize the murder of the impoverished and marginalized," she said.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, lamented that while those who have less in life continue to suffer injustices under the current regime, Mr. Duterte's plunderer-friends and sycophants continue to accumulate riches from public funds free from prosecution.

"Those prosecuted by the past administration are eventually freed under his regime that has raised kleptocracy to new heights never seen before since the Marcos dictatorship," she added.

Based on official figures, about 29,000 people have died since Mr. Duterte launched his violent war on drugs, of which 6,000 suspected drug offenders were killed in police operations while the rest were cases of killing categorized as deaths under inquiry.

Mr. Duterte has also received rebukes for condemning the resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council which calls for a comprehensive review of the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines.

Instead of supporting death penalty to aid in deterring criminal activities, De Lima has instead filed a number of bills that are meant to strengthen the justice institutions in the Philippines and equip them with additional weapons in the fight against criminality

These include, among others, Senate Bill (SB) No. 369 or Criminal Investigation Act of 2016, SB No. 368 or an Act Punishing Extraordinary Crimes with Qualified Reclusion Perpetua and Prohibiting Imposition of Death Penalty, and an Act Instituting a Unified Corrections and Jail Management System.

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