Gordon warning: PH faces international shame if it opts out of treaty vs death penalty
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines risks falling in disgrace if the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte decided to opt out of an international treaty, ratified by the Philippine Senate, which bars signatory countries from imposing the death penalty.
Sen. Richard Gordon made this warning on Tuesday following Duterte’s renewed push for the revival of capital punishment, which had been abolished in the Philippines in 2006.
Gordon, chair of the Senate justice committee, said reviving the death penalty would not be easy since the Philippines is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 2nd Optional Protocol.
“There is an international agreement which we signed, the 2nd Optional Protocol,” said Gordon at an online interview.
“All countries who signed it cannot issue the death penalty and that is ratified by the Senate,” he said.
“So that cannot be easily done,” Gordon added in Filipino, referring to the push for the death penalty.
During his penultimate State of the Nation Address on Monday, Duterte called anew for the reimposition of capital punishment for crimes involving illegal drugs.
“I reiterate the swift passage of the law reviving the death penalty by lethal injection for crimes specified under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” the President had said.
Asked if he thought the administration would opt to pull out from the treaty to clear the way for the revival of the death penalty, similar to the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, Gordon said “constitutional issues” would be raised if the President chose to do so.
“There will be a constitutional issue there because this was ratified,” said Gordon. “We will earn international opprobrium unfairly to our people,” he said, referring to another word for disgrace.
Duterte has long been pushing for the reimposition of the death penalty, saying it would be a deterrent to crimes involving illegal drugs.
But Gordon said he believes otherwise.
“My position has always been clear, I don’t think the death penalty works,” he said.
“I don’t think it will be a deterrent. Especially because the public must see the justice system work. Why are we not making the justice system work?” he said.
In Filipino, he said the reason reviving death penalty worries him is the practice by law enforcers of planting evidence. “You just put drugs there, you plant it. How does it go? That’s what worries me,” he said in Filipino.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said the return of capital punishment in the country would have a “better chance” in the upper chamber should it apply only to high-level drug trafficking.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, an unflinching ally of Duterte, said he was happy that the President made a new plea for death penalty’s return.
Duterte’s call for the revival of the death penalty will “boost” its chances of approval in Congress, said Dela Rosa, Duterte’s first national police chief and architect of the infamous Oplan Tokhang which is being blamed for hundreds of extrajudicial killings.
Death penalty hearings
Gordon, who has long opposed the death penalty, said he would not lead hearings into Senate bills seeking its revival.
In the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives gave its nod to House Bill No. 4727 seeking to reimpose capital punishment for heinous and drug-related offenses, but it did not prosper in the Senate.
Several Senate bills seeking the revival of the death penalty have been filed in the 18th Congress, all of which are still pending at the committee level.
“I’m not gonna hold a hearing, I don’t believe it. If they insist, then I’ll probably hold a hearing first and if inaakala nila hindi ako fair ibibigay ko sa kanila,” Gordon said.
“I’m the chairman of the Committee on Justice. If they think that I’m going to be biased… but I promise you if we do hearings, we will hear everybody and if they think that I’m not able to do the job fairly and objectively then sasabihin ko… I already told Manny Pacquiao. Gustong-gusto niya no’n. ‘Ikaw ang mag-sponsor,’” he added.
Gordon said he would be willing to create a Pacquiao-led sub-committee to hear the bills.
Meanwhile, Sotto said would “make himself available” to lead hearings into the death penalty in the Senate but stressed that he would only support its reimposition if it would be confined to high-level drug trafficking.
“I’ll be willing to sponsor if they want me to. I will make myself available if the committee or the members of the Senate wish. I will make myself available only if it is confined to high-level drug trafficking,” he said in a separate online interview with reporters.