Duterte eyes daily ex­e­cu­tions, crit­ics slam plan as ‘bar­baric’

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

Philippine Catholic lead­ers and rights groups yes­ter­day con­demned as “bar­baric” Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s plan to re­store the death penalty and ex­e­cute “five or six” crim­i­nals daily. Duterte, 71, has made re­viv­ing the death penalty in the mainly Catholic na­tion his top leg­isla­tive pri­or­ity as part of a bru­tal war on crime that has killed 5,300 peo­ple. “There was death penalty be­fore but noth­ing hap­pened. Re­turn that to me and I would do it every day: five or six (crim­i­nals). That’s for real,” Duterte said Satur­day.

An of­fi­cial at the in­flu­en­tial Catholic Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence of the Philip­pines said the Church “to­tally op­posed” Duterte’s plan. “The Philip­pines will be viewed as very bar­baric,” Fa­ther Jerome Se­cil­lano, ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary at its public af­fairs of­fice, told AFP. “It’s go­ing to make the Philip­pines the cap­i­tal of death penalty in the world.”

The Philip­pines abol­ished the death penalty in 2006 following fierce op­po­si­tion to the penalty from the Catholic Church, the re­li­gion of 80 per­cent of Filipinos. Be­fore as­sum­ing of­fice in June, Duterte vowed to in­tro­duce ex­e­cu­tions by hang­ing, say­ing he did not want to waste bul­lets and be­lieved snap­ping the spinal cord was more hu­mane than a fir­ing squad. Duterte said he viewed the death penalty not as a means to de­ter crime but for ret­ri­bu­tion. His al­lies in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives quickly pushed for the bill and said they would vote on it by Jan­uary.

The United Na­tions’ hu­man rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hus­sein, said in a let­ter to the Philippine congress this month that re­viv­ing the death penalty would vi­o­late the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions. But on Satur­day Duterte in­sisted ex­e­cu­tions were nec­es­sary to fight the drug scourge which he said was “de­stroy­ing” the na­tion. While his aides dis­miss his in­cen­di­ary state­ments as hy­per­bole, rights ad­vo­cates said Duterte’s re­marks were alarm­ing.

“Set­ting a quota for ex­e­cu­tions is just too much. One death is too much be­cause we are talk­ing about lives,” Amnesty In­ter­na­tional Philip­pines vice chair­man Romeo Cabarde told AFP. Catholic lead­ers and rights de­fend­ers have in­stead urged the gov­ern­ment to re­form a slow and cor­rupt jus­tice sys­tem which they said was likely to send in­no­cent peo­ple to death row. Se­cil­lano said bish­ops planned to dis­suade law­mak­ers from vot­ing for the death penalty and would at­tend con­gres­sional de­bates next month.

Duterte’s crime war has drawn in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism from the United States and United Na­tions over con­cerns about al­leged ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and a break­down in the rule of law. Duterte won May elec­tions in a land­slide on a promise to erad­i­cate drugs in so­ci­ety - a man­date he of­ten cited to de­fend his con­tro­ver­sial cam­paign. A sur­vey by So­cial Weather Sta­tions re­leased yes­ter­day showed while a ma­jor­ity backed Duterte’s drug war, 78 per­cent of Filipinos were wor­ried that they or some­one in their fam­ily would be a vic­tim of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings.

The sur­vey also showed 71 per­cent said it was “very im­por­tant” that po­lice keep drug sus­pects they ar­rested alive. Po­lice have re­peat­edly said they only shot at crim­i­nals who fought back but the na­tion’s rights agency has ques­tioned this ar­gu­ment and has be­gun in­ves­ti­gat­ing cases. Yes­ter­day, Philippine Na­tional Po­lice chief Ron­ald dela Rosa apol­o­gized for po­lice killings of crim­i­nal sus­pects but in­sisted these were done in self­de­fense.

“Lord, I hope you for­give us even if the ones we kill are bad peo­ple,” Dela Rosa said dur­ing the po­lice’s Christ­mas party. “If the life of a po­lice­man will be lost just to pre­serve the life of a crim­i­nal, that’s a great in­jus­tice.” Dela Rosa added Duterte gave po­lice hefty bonuses for lead­ing the crime war. — AFP

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