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Duterte pushes for return of death penalty

MANILA, Philippines — For the third time, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday used his State of the Nation Address (Sona) to press Congress to pass a law reviving the death penalty for heinous crimes related to illegal drugs.

The President even specified his method of choice in reiterating the reimposition of the death penalty, a call which he made in his 2017 and 2019 Sonas.“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,” Duterte said in his address on Monday afternoon.

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Sensing that there was scattered applause, the President said: “I did not hear so much clapping so I presume that they are not interested.”

The limited audience inside the Batasang Pambansa then clapped in response, as Duterte veered from his speech and ranted against the effects of illegal drugs on Filipino families.“But this is not a time for storytelling. This is the Sona. This law will not only help us deter criminality but also save our children from the dangers posed by illegal and dangerous drugs,” the President said.

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Mr. Duterte made the appeal as the country grapples with the disastrous impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

‘An eye for an eye’

In Davao City on June 27, 2016, just weeks after winning the elections, President Duterte explained why he was in favor of the death penalty.

“I believe in retribution. Why? You should pay. When you kill someone, rape, you should die!” he said at a gathering in the city which he ruled for more than 20 years.

In July 2017, during the President’s second Sona, he said the death penalty comes naturally in the Philippine setting.

“In the Philippines, it’s really an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” Duterte said at his second Sona. “You took a life, then you must pay for it with life,” he said.

In his Sona last year, the chief executive again asked Congress to pass a law restoring the death penalty for drug crimes and plunder.

The President also called on Congress to include plunder among crimes punishable by death.

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

The President has repeatedly warned drug traffickers and criminals that he would kill and execute them for destroying his country.

Earlier in his speech on Monday, Duterte said he believed that “freedom from illegal drugs, terrorism, corruption and criminality, is itself a human right.”Towards the end of his remarks, the President recognized that crimes may increase amid hardships from the pandemic that has leveled economies around the world.

Warning to criminals

While assuring the public that the country will remain “relatively peaceful” under his watch, the President warned criminals not to go back to their old ways, lest they get hunted down by his government.

“Crimes will increase. For as long as I am President, there can never be a runaway crime in any of our cities. I will not allow it. I can assure you, we will remain peaceful. Relatively peaceful, not very peaceful,” Duterte said.

But bringing back death penalty in the Philippines will be a breach of international law, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said after President Duterte called for the reinstating of death penalty by lethal injection in his Sona on Monday.

“Calling to reintroduce death penalty in the Philippines through lethal injection runs against two affirmations of this government during the 2020 State of the Nation Address — putting human lives above all and not dodging the obligation to fight for human rights,” said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia in a statement.

With a report from Inquirer Research

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TAGS: Death penalty, drug-related crimes, Rodrigo Duterte
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