Duterte calls for revival of death penalty by lethal injection for drug-related crimes

By Kristel Limpot, CNN Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte once more pushed for the reimposition of capital punishment, specifying the method of lethal injection, for heinous crimes related to illegal drugs in his fifth State of the Nation Address.

The President, who has waged a violent drug war since he came into office in 2016 and vowed to fight criminality, said executions will help lower crime rates in the country.

“I reiterate the swift passage of a law reviving the death penalty by lethal injection for crimes specified under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” he said in his speech on Monday.

“This law will not only help us deter criminality, but also save our children from the dangers posed by the illegal and dangerous drugs,” he stressed.

This statement came after Duterte said his administration believes that freedom from illegal drugs, among other illicit acts, is a human right. He warned that drug users and traffickers who commit crimes in the country will be met with execution, saying, “I will really kill you. That is a commitment.”

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa said Duterte’s call is “a big boost” to the corresponding measure he filed in June 2019, which seeks to reinstate the penalty for drug traffickers and drug manufacturers.

“Matagal ko na kasing na-file ‘yung death penalty against drug trafficking, but until now it’s languishing at the referred committee kaya malaking boost ‘yung pakikiusap ni Pangulo sa ating Kongreso,” he said.

[Translation: I have long filed a bill seeking to revive the death penalty for drug trafficking, but until now it’s languishing at the referred committee, so the President’s appeal to Congress is a big boost.]

Dela Rosa said imposing a death sentence is the only effective way to prevent drug trafficking.

“Dapat talagang bitayin ‘yang mga drug lord na ‘yan,” he said. “Sabi sa’kin ng mga drug lord sa Bilibid, kung gusto raw talaga ng gobyerno mahinto o mabawasan man lang ‘yung drug trafficking, kailangan ibalik daw talaga ‘yung death penalty.”

[Translation: Drug lords should really be hanged. The drug lords in Bilibid told me that if the government really wants to stop or at least lessen drug trafficking, the death penalty should be reinstated.]

The senator refuted concerns that the death penalty is anti-poor, saying there is no “small-time” drug trafficker, and that all drug lords “can hire the best lawyer.”

Critics have argued against the measure, saying the poor are more likely to be executed than wealthy inmates. Those against the measure also cite the high rate of judicial errors, which may result in the death of innocent people.

The United Nations’ human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in June that the extrajudicial killings and other abuses in the country were a result of the Duterte administration’s anti-drug policies. 

Last year, Duterte said that to lessen expenses, his preferred method of killing criminals if Congress heeds his plea is hanging by rope.

During the 17th Congress, the bill implementing death penalty for drug-related crimes was passed by the House of Representatives, but was stalled in the Senate.

The 1987 Constitution abolished the death penalty but allowed Congress to bring it back for heinous crimes. It was revived under the administration of President Fidel Ramos, but was scrapped again under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

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