DOJ sees no impediments to return of death penalty, wary of letting kids watch executions

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice said it sees no legal or constitutional impediment on legalizing the execution of convicts in the Philippines, but lawmakers pointed out that doing so would make the country a "rogue" state in the community of nations.

Legislating the return of the death penalty is within the powers of Congress and is allowed by the Constitution, Justice Assistant Secretary Nicholas Ty told the House of Representatives Committee on Justice on Wednesday.

The House panel is conducting a hearing on bills pushing for the reimposition of capital punishment—just weeks since President Rodrigo Duterte renewed the call on his fifth State of the Nation Address.

Ty however said that the DOJ has “concerns” with some specific provisions in the House bills such as the manner of execution by hanging or firing squad as they deemed these “degrading or inhumane punishment.”

The DOJ also expressed concern on the provision allowing public viewing of executions, even by minors.

International obligations

Rep. Christopher Belmonte (Quezon City) asked Ty whether reinstating death penalty would be tantamount to a breach of international obligations. This includes second protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on abolition of death penalty, which was ratified in 2007.

Human Rights Commissioner Karen Dumpit also pointed out that the Philippines would violate this treaty when she spoke earlier at the hearing.

Ty replied that while they are “not yet certain,” looking at the language of the ICCPR and the second protocol, “there does not appear express language that would say that we are prohibit from re-imposing death penalty.”

“Even if we concede that this is the case...their principles... should be read side by side with our law and Constitution and our Constitution allows [us] to reimpose death penalty,” the DOJ official said.

“There can’t be a reconciliation that would result of prevalence of international law over our domestic law and the Constitution,” Ty added.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro) meanwhile pressed that the Philippines may be a rogue state if it would impose the capital punishment considering our international obligations.

Ty said that the Philippines may argue against being a rogue state by citing that “there is inconsistency” with what is provided for in our Constitution.

Rodriguez pointed out that the treaties were signed after the present Charter was signed. “We have already made policies by signing these [treaties],” the lawmaker continued.

Later in the hearing, Free and Legal Assistance Group chair Chel Diokno addressed this and said there is no conflict between our Constitution and international treaties “when one is permissive and one is prohibitive.”

“Yes, the Constitution permits death penalty under certain condition but international treaties which we are a party to prohibit it,” Diokno added.

Rodriguez also said that the Philippine government may be deemed hypocritical if it re-imposes the capital punishment while it negotiates to save our countrymen from the death row in other countries.

Ty admitted that it “may be more difficult” for the government if the death penalty is re-mposed, but “it should not prevent us from doing so, [as] we can always cite other reasons.”

The DOJ official said they would submit another position paper as it vowed to look into the proposed measure again amid the raging pandemic that has killed more than 2,000 Filipinos.

Rodriguez quipped that he admires Ty’s “good intellect” but said he does not understand “why in this particular case you have a different stance.”

“That’s understandable, you are in [the] Executive [branch]. I hope in the next hearing, when you submit your position, you will be against death penalty, also Secretary [Menardo] Guevarra, because that is in your heart,” he added.




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