CHR disagrees with Duterte’s call for death penalty, ROTC revival
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has again expressed reservations with the planned reinstatement of the death penalty and the Reserved Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) — both mentioned by President Rodrigo Duterte in his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona).
CHR spokesperson lawyer Jaqueline Ann de Guia on Tuesday reminded the President that the country is a signatory of treaties rejecting the death penalty.
“We stress that any move to bring back capital punishment in the country violates the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. By ratifying the treaty, the Philippines has agreed to take all necessary measures to prevent any execution since we suspended its imposition in 2007,” De Guia said in a statement.
“Instead, what we need is a strong, responsive justice system that won’t allow perpetrators of crimes escape the long arm of the law—including plunders and those involved in illegal drug sale and use,” she added.
De Guia also cited the issues of violence that have hounded the ROTC program in the past that prompted the government to cast it aside.
“At the same time, we also caution the government on the concerns arising from proposals to make the ROTC mandatory, including reports of fatal violence in the past,” she noted.
“These cannot be simply ignored and left unaddressed, especially if the proposal seeks to impose ROTC among high school students. Schools and universities should be safe spaces for children. Violence should never be condoned,” she said.
Duterte, in his Sona, urged the 18th Congress to pass the revival of the ROTC as it is a “very important” measure to strengthen the country’s defense system. He also asked lawmakers to reimpose the death penalty, especially for drug-related crimes.
Previously, Senator Ronald dela Rosa — one of Duterte’s close allies in the 18th Congress — said that he would push for the measures’ enactment.
CHR also chided Duterte for still making “inappropriate” jokes in his speech. In a portion of his Sona, Duterte said that he still beats up people inside Malacañang for being involved in corruption.
“It is then unfortunate that inappropriate jokes still found its way in the 2019 Sona and, to this end, we emphasize the need to be circumspect in all utterances, with due regard to human dignity,” De Guia added.
Still, Duterte drew praises from the human rights body after he mentioned environmental issues and the upholding of labor rights of teachers, nurses, and other aspects that would help people have decent lives.
“These cover a part of our economic, social, and cultural human rights,” De Guia explained.
Duterte and CHR have had brushes in the past after the latter has called out the government for its alleged inaction on human rights abuses — such as red-tagging, attack on activists and journalists, and supposed extrajudicial killings amid the war on illegal drugs.
The President previously said that the commission should be abolished for investigating law enforcers without his approval.
CHR said it is willing to help the government in having a meaningful discussion on the issue of the death penalty and ROTC.
“In the end, we must improve the way we appreciate and protect the right to life of all persons […] The challenge for everyone, most especially for the government as the primary duty-bearer, is to build on the gains of human rights laws and policies passed by the previous Congress,” De Guia stressed.
“In the end, it is the government’s duty to respect, protect, and promote the rights of all — without favor or discrimination to any group. Laws are meant to protect our rights and should never be used to advance the welfare of only a few,” she added./ac
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