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Open Letter to the Senate of the Philippines on the Approved House Bill 4727 by the House of Representatives on 7 March 2017

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To Excellency:

  • Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III (Senate President)
  • Senator Ralph G. Recto (Senate President Pro-Tempore)
  • Senator Vicente C. Sotto III (Majority Leader)
  • Senator Franklin M. Drilon (Minority Leader)
  • Senator Sonny M. Angara
  • Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV (Assistant Minority Leader)
  • Senator Maria Lourdes “Nancy” S. Binay
  • Senator Alan Peter “Companero” S. Cayetano
  • Senator Leila De Lima
  • Senator Joseph Victor G. Ejercito
  • Senator Francis “Chiz” G. Escudero
  • Senator Sherwin Gatchalian
  • Senator Richard J. Gordon
  • Senator Gregorio B. Hosanan II
  • Senator Risa Hontiveros
  • Senator Panfilo M. Lacson
  • Senator Loren B. Legarda
  • Senator Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao
  • Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan
  • Senator Grace L. Poe
  • Senator Antonio “Sonny” F. Trillanes IV
  • Senator Joel Villanueva
  • Senator Cynthia A.Villar
  • Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri

Honourable Senators,

We, the undersigned civil society organisations from the Southeast Asia region, express our grave disappointment at the decision of the House of Representatives of the Philippines to approve the House Bill 4727, that seeks to reinstate the death penalty. Such a decision sends an alarming signal to the ASEAN region given the Philippines’ role as the current Chair of ASEAN, a regional body that will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.

As a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Second Optional Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, the Philippines had played an important role among the Asian states in campaigning for a moratorium and abolition of the death penalty. The Philippines is the first country in Asia to abolish the death penalty in 1987. Despite being restored in 1994, the death penalty was abolished for the second time in 2006.

In the midst of the administration’s highly-criticised ‘war on drugs’, with more than 7,000 people have been killed, the Bill represents another baseless argument that the death penalty for drug-related offenses is the way forward to ending the drug menace in the country. To date, there is no ample and conclusive evidence proving that the death penalty can act as a deterrent of crime. Similar to the use of extrajudicial killing that targets mostly the poorest members of the community, the use of the death penalty will likely target the marginalised people who are mostly defenceless in the judicial system. The use of the death penalty often overlooks the root of crimes in the society, such as poverty and inequality.

The passage of the Bill is a major setback for human rights in the country and erodes the Philippines’ reputation for leadership on the abolition of the death penalty in the ASEAN region and Asia. As the Chair of ASEAN, the Philippines should set an example to all ASEAN Member States to also abolish death penalty and continue to affirm that the use of death penalty is an ultimate denial of human rights.

Nevertheless, we recognise the existing opportunity to challenge the decision made by the House of Representatives upon the House Bill 4727 through the proceedings at the Senate.

Therefore, on behalf of civil society organisations, human rights defenders, and the people of ASEAN, we would like express our truthful hope and call on the honourable members of the Philippines Senate to reject House Bill 4727. We further request the Senate to continue monitoring and critically observing any attempts to regress human rights standards and practices in the Philippines and in the ASEAN region.

In solidarity,

  1. Solidarity for ASEAN People’s Advocacies (SAPA)
  2. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  3. Progressive Voice, Myanmar/Burma
  4. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Indonesia
  5. Think Centre, Singapore
  6. ASEAN SOGIE Caucus
  7. Hak Association, Timor-Leste
  8. Boat People SOS (BPSOS)
  9. Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia
  10. Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia)
  11. The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Cambodia
  12. International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), Indonesia
  13. Altsean Burma
  14. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Philippines
  15. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  16. ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC)
  17. People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF), Thailand
  18. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia
  19. Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Indonesia
  20. Initiative for International Dialogue (IID)
  21. Philippines Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Philippines
  22. Asian Network for Free Election (ANFREL)
  23. International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific)

For the PDF version of this letter click here