Shoot-to-kill, hanging await criminals
(The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2016 - 10:00am

For two offenses, double hanging

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte vowed yesterday to introduce execution by hanging as part of a ruthless law-and-order crackdown that would also include ordering government snipers to kill suspected criminals.

In back-to-back press conferences since his landslide victory in the May 9 elections, the tough-talking mayor of Davao City said security forces would be given “shoot-to-kill” orders and that citizens would learn to fear the law.

“Those who destroy the lives of our children will be destroyed,” Duterte said in wide-ranging comments to journalists in Davao, as he outlined his war on crime once he is sworn into office on June 30. “Those who kill my country will be killed. Simple as that, no middle ground, no apologies, no excuses.”

Duterte vowed to roll out Davao’s law and order measures on a nationwide basis, including a 2 a.m. curfew on drinking in public places and a ban on children walking on the streets alone late at night.

Smoking in restaurants and hotels will also be banned.

Duterte said a central part of his war on crime would be to bring back the death penalty, which was abolished in 2006 under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Duterte said he would ask Congress to reintroduce capital punishment for a wide range of crimes, including drug trafficking, rape, murder, robbery and kidnap-for-ransom.

He said he preferred death by hanging to a firing squad because he did not want to waste bullets, and because he believed snapping the spine with a noose was more humane.

For people convicted of two major crimes, Duterte said he wanted them hanged twice.

“After you are hanged first, there will be another ceremony… until the head is completely severed from the body. I like that because I am mad,” he said.

Shoot-to-kill        

The centerpiece of Duterte’s stunningly successful election campaign was a pledge to end crime within three to six months of being elected.

Duterte vowed during the campaign to kill tens of thousands of criminals, outraging his critics but hypnotizing millions of Filipinos fed up with rampant crime and graft.

He said on one occasion that 100,000 people would die, and so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.

In an initial press conference late Sunday, Duterte said his “shoot-to-kill” orders would be given for those involved in organized crime or those who resisted arrest.

“If you resist, show violent resistance, my order to police (will be) to shoot to kill. Shoot to kill for organized crime,” he said.

Duterte said the military as well as the police would be used in his war on crime.

“I need military officers who are sharp-shooters and snipers. It’s true. If you fight, I will have a sniper shoot you,” he said, referring to criminals.

But he asked the police to first clean their ranks, especially those suspected of being involved in the illegal drug trade.

He advised police officers, whether general or patrolmen, involved in the illegal drug trade and organized crime to quietly quit the service or be named publicly.

President Aquino warned repeatedly during the election campaign that Duterte was a dictator in the making and would bring terror to the nation.

Death squad fears

Duterte has been accused of running vigilante death squads during his more than two decades as mayor of Davao, a city of about two million people that he said he has turned into one of the nation’s safest.

Rights groups say the squads – made up of police, hired assassins and ex-communist rebels – have killed more than 1,000 people.

They say children and petty criminals were among the victims.

Duterte boasted on one occasion during the campaign of being behind the squads, saying they killed 1,700 people. But other times he denied any involvement.

Amnesty International has frowned on Duterte’s plan, but the mayor’s ally Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption sees the restoration of the death penalty as a big help in deterring crime.

Up to Congress

Restoring capital punishment will be up to Congress, Malacañang said, noting it would give the incoming administration the chance to explain its policies.

“(Restoring) the death penalty requires amendment of the law. It is best discussed by the next Congress,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

Coloma said it would be up to the incoming administration to decide how it could best pursue the mandate given by the people.

“We’d rather focus on transition than engage in further debates or arguments. The incoming administration deserves an opportunity to be heard and understood in terms of its policy and initiatives,” he said.

Duterte, CHR showdown

Duterte will face a tough battle with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) over his proposal to reinstate the death penalty for heinous crimes.

“The CHR is prepared to explain its position to Congress why it is against the restoration of capital punishment,” chairman Chito Gascon said, adding more states are abolishing it.

Duterte’s transition team has reportedly started discussing the matter to ensure that it will not violate international human rights laws.

Gascon said the plan of the next administration would require congressional intervention as provided under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Death penalty by electric chair was re-imposed after former president Fidel Ramos signed Republic Act 7659 in 1993 due to rising crimes.

In 1996, Ramos signed RA 8177, designating lethal injection as the method for capital punishment.

Executions were carried out during the term of former president Joseph Estrada, although he issued a moratorium in 2000 in observance of the Jubilee Year.

Estrada’s successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, signed RA 9346 prohibiting the imposition of the death penalty.

Opposition

Gascon said the global trend on death penalty is abolition and not reinstatement.

“It constitutes what is effectively cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment that is prohibited in the Bill of Rights and international law,” he said.

“It is contrary to the rehabilative purpose of criminal justice and does not fully consider the possibility of mistake as it cannot be undone.” Gascon said capital punishment is not a crime deterrent and is often unfairly applied on the poor.

If restored, Gascon said the country would renege on its international commitment to abolish capital punishment.

The Philippines is a signatory to the second optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which promotes the abolition of death penalty.

It also voted in favor of a UN resolution on the moratorium against capital punishment in 2014.

Meanwhile, Theodore Te, former lawyer of convicted rapist Leo Echegaray who was executed by lethal injection in 1999, has joined the growing opposition to Duterte’s plan to restore the death penalty.

Te posted “Not In My Name” (NIMN) on his Facebook account yesterday to protest the reimposition of capital punishment.

The phrase has long been a slogan and battle cry of abolitionists. It refers to the practice of attributing state-sanctioned murder in the name of the people.

“NIMN is a cry of protest against capital punishment, saying ‘do not kill in my name,” Te said.

“It is crucial that we elect a Congress that is not composed of sheep, so they can say ‘no’ and not just ‘baaa’,” Te said.

Echegaray was the first convict to be executed by lethal injection after the death penalty was restored in 1993. He was convicted in 1994 for the rape of his 10-year-old stepdaughter.

Monitoring Duterte presidency

Earlier, Gascon said the CHR is not worried about a Duterte presidency even as they have been at odds with the incoming president over allegations of human rights violations during his time as Davao City mayor.

“We are a constitutional office and we are performing a duty that is mandated by the Constitution,” he said.

Gascon expressed hope that Duterte, a lawyer by profession, would stand for human rights and no violation of such would happen during his presidency.

For his part, Sen. Vicente Sotto III said the plan to reimpose the death penalty by hanging would need a lot of study under the incoming 17th Congress.

Once restored, Sotto said the law would not be retroactive for convicted drug lords who were meted with the maximum penalty after Congress abolished the death penalty in June 2006.

“I suggest they study my proposed Senate Bill 3226. It has the same effect but less controversial,” he said. 

Sotto was referring to his draft bill which recommends the creation of a detention facility, preferably on Palawan island, mainly for hardened criminals and high-profile drug convicts.

By isolating convicted drug lords in a facility similar to the US Alcatraz, Sotto is optimistic this could stop the convicts from conducting their drug activities. 

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said he is open to Duterte’s plan to reimpose death penalty. He said he would be supportive of the policies of the Duterte administration and can be cooperative and a fiscalizer, if necessary.

Trillanes, who exposed Duterte’s alleged bank accounts and some of the family’s properties, reminded the incoming president that the police should abide by the rules of engagement during operations.

He was referring to Duterte’s plan to implement a shoot-to-kill order against those resisting arrest.

“Cops have to follow the rules of engagement. If it was just for self defense, the force should be commensurate just to disable the person,” he said.

‘No one should play God’

This was the reaction of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to Duterte’s plan to restore the death penalty by hanging for certain crimes.

“Only God has the power over life. God gives life and God takes life. No one should play God,” Bataan Bishop Ruperto Santos of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMIP) said as he stressed the sacredness of life and urged the people to promote respect and protect life.

Santos said it is the prison that needs to be reformed and the justice system should be reviewed.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said Duterte was true to himself but not to God. He said he would volunteer to be executed in the place of all those that the incoming government will hang. – With Aurea Calica, Janvic Mateo, Edu Punay, Christina Mendez, Evelyn Macairan

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