By: Rep. Edcel C. Lagman
Three minutes is too short for the explanation of my dissenting vote. I shall therefore summarize my reasons and submit the full text for inclusion in the Journal.
Let me start by commending 53 colleagues who voted against the reimposition of the death penalty, 54 including my negative vote. I salute them for their courage in defying threats and pressures from the House leaders and remaining steadfast in promoting and protecting human rights.
I submit the two overriding reasons, among others, for voting against House Bill No. 4727:
1. The reimposition of capital punishment is an open defiance of our irrevocable commitment not to reimpose the death penalty as a State Party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. We undertook under the Protocol not to execute anyone within our jurisdiction. Significantly, the Philippines became a State Party to the Protocol in 2007, a year after the country abolished the death penalty under R.A. No. 9346.
International law jurisprudence, covenants and authorities unequivocally declare that no country can use its domestic law, including its constitution, to renege on or violate its treaty obligations. This is consistent with the constitutional principle that the Philippines “adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land.”
2. The 1987 Constitution abolished the death penalty. However, it allowed the Congress to reimpose it for compelling reasons on heinous crimes. These two stringent conditions are separate but concurring.
The heinousness of a crime is not determinative of the compelling reason. They are not synonymous. The Congress must show separately the requisite factors of “compelling reasons” and “heinousness”. The proponents have failed to comply with the constitutional prerequisites.
No compelling reasons were shown why the death penalty must be reimposed on the drug-related offenses as the maximum penalty.
Even the 1988 UN Drug Convention, to which the Philippines is again a State Party, does not prescribe death penalty on drug-related offenses.
The International Narcotics Control Board has consistently advised countries not to impose the death penalty on drug offenses because the capital punishment violates the right to life. The death penalty does not address the various factors which influence the prevalence of the drug menace.
The unsubstantiated claim that the death penalty (a) is a fitting response to criminality; (b) it will restore respect for the laws; (c) it is a path to achieve justice; and (d) it is geared towards genuine reform in the criminal justice system, are not impressed with compelling reasons because: (a) data show that the rate of criminality has gone down and the death penalty is not a deterrent; (b) the SWS survey released on 31 January 2017 documented that the number of Filipinos who were victims of crimes have gone down to record lows; (c) punitive justice is not the avenue to achieve justice because vengeance is never justice; and (d) the imposition of capital punishment is not a precursor to judicial reforms.
The death penalty is an abhorrent punishment. It forecloses the reformation of the convict. It victimizes the poor. It is not the solution to criminality. It is not the answer to poverty and social injustice. It debases the right to life.
Pope Francis has declared that the inviolability of life extends to the criminal!