CHR Reiterates Stance on Death Penalty at End Crime, Not Life Public Forum (2017)
QUEZON CITY—The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) stressed its opposition to the reinstatement of the death penalty in the Philippines, asserting that it has never deterred heinous crimes from happening in the country.
“Death penalty does not deter crimes. In fact, crime rates went down by 18.8% even without the death penalty,” said CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit during the “End Crime, Not Life” Public Forum at CHR’s Bulwagang Ka Pepe on Monday, August 14.
The Commission echoed this call alongside the Coalition on the Abolition of Death Penalty in ASEAN (CADPA) whose representatives were also present during the said event.
Commissioner Gomez-Dumpit clarified that the CHR does not want any crime to go unpunished. The Commission, however, believes that justice can be achieved through a responsive penal system and not through harsh punishments, such as the death penalty. Commissioner Gomez-Dumpit laments that pro-death penalty advocates in Congress do not have any statistics to prove that the death penalty could deter crime. “They simply want it passed,” she said.
Violates the right to life
Civil society organizations (CSOs) present at the event also joined the chorus against the reinstatement of capital punishment in the country, reminding the government of its obligations under the international law.
Nilda Sevilla of In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity (iDefend) stressed that the death penalty violates the basic human right to life and runs against the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that seeks to abolish the death penalty across all countries. The Philippines had ratified this international statute in 2007.
“Fighting against the reinstatement of death penalty is not an easy task. It is an uphill battle,” Sevilla said.
Recognizing this struggle, former CHR Chairperson Lorretta Ann “Etta” Rosales, representing the Participatory Education on Rights Awareness and Social Action (PERAS) Coalition, shared that cities in Metro Manila, such as Caloocan, have founded organizations to oppose inhumane acts and have started conversations on human rights.
“In Caloocan, for instance, there is a guide for restorative justice to help victims of drug abuse. Local government helps the church and the community. It is indeed very important to organize people in the community level to capacitate them as rights-holders and duty-bearers.” Rosales said.
Not as revenge
One of the speakers of the public forum was a well-renowned Japanese photojournalist Toshi Kazama. He has been taking photographs of death row inmates – as well as of the families of their victims – for more than two decades. Reflecting on the course of his profession and experience, he shared that it is a popular misconception that families of murdered victims want the death penalty, as a form of revenge.
“The media only covers the reaction of the murdered victims’ families right after the crime, so that becomes the perception. Like myself, some of the victims choose to forgive – not because we do not want the perpetrators to get punished – but because we cannot live in anger and hatred.”
He further shared that some of the victims’ families choose to live in unity and compassion rather than hatred, because that would only perpetuate violence.
Kazama also showcased his photographs at the Senate of the Philippines in Pasay last 14-16 August 2017.
Also present at the event were CHR Chairperson Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon; CAPDA founder Rafendi Djamin; Ninian Sumadia of the ASEAN Youth Forum; and other CSO representatives, who all stand against the reinstatement of the death penalty in the Philippines.
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