The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights warned the Philippines that it will violate an international agreement if its government allowed the reimposition of death penalty in the country.
Early this week, the death penalty bill hurdled the committee level in the House of Representatives.
In an open letter addressed to Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, UN Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed his concerns over the pending measure to restore capital punishment in the Philippines.
“The Philippines would violate its obligations under international human rights law if it reintroduced the death penalty, I appeal to you and all members of Congress to uphold the international human rights obligations of the Philippines and maintain the abolition of the death penalty,” Al Hussein said in his letter.
Al Hussein also reminded the Philippines that it has signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2007, which “guarantees that no one can be executed within its jurisdiction.”
“International law does not permit a State that has ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to denounce it or withdraw from it,” he added.
At the same time, Al Hussein noted that the Philippines passed the Republic Act 9346 or “An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines” under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006.
In his letter, Al Hussein also acknowledged the Philippines’ intensified campaign against illegal drugs. However, he stressed that ICCPR “considers that the use of the death penalty for drug crimes is incompatible under international law.”
The death penalty bill, which will be deliberated next at the Senate committee, listed the use and trade of illegal drugs as some of the heinous crimes liable for capital punishment.
“The most effective manner of addressing drug-related offences is through strengthening the rule of law, ensuring an effective justice system and reducing drug use by adopting a strong public health approach to prevention, harm reduction and other forms of health care and treatment in accordance with international standards,” Al Hussein suggested.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who won the presidency in a landslide victory last May with a vow to kill drug lords and drug users to prevent the country from becoming a “narco-state,” also promised during his presidential campaign that he will support the reimposition of capital punishment in the country.