MANILA – The death penalty bill, which enjoys majority support in the House of Representatives but faces rough sailing in the Senate, will get a second wind in the regular session of the 17th Congress, if President Rodrigo Duterte has his way with his allies.
Delivering his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday (July 24), Duterte asked Congress to act on pending legislation to reimpose the death penalty, especially for heinous crimes and trafficking in illegal drugs.
The death penalty was abolished in 2006 during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but Duterte has pitched its revival since his 2016 election campaign days, insisting it is a key plank of the fight against crime.
He cited data that 77,000 crimes were “drug-related” before he took power on June 30, 2016, and this is what drives his main program to fight illegal drugs. His campaign, however, has drawn condemnation from human rights groups and UN bodies worried by the high body count and collateral damage.
He repeated his criticism of a UN rapporteur who, during a conference in May this year, had cited an “expert” who concluded that methampetamine hydrochloride or shabu — which dominates the illegal drugs scene — does not shrink the human brain.
Duterte challenged those who believe in this theory to look at the thousands of cases of people raped, killed or robbed by drug-induced individuals.
He also chastised foreign visitors who visited detained Sen. Leila de Lima, whom he did not name, and have used her statements on human rights violations during his term as basis for their critical public remarks.
“Is she a credible woman? Can she be a moral person? ” Duterte asked his audience, some of whom clapped. He recalled how the Justice committee of the House of Representatives had conducted a hearing on the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison, and how testimony of detained drug lords summoned by the HOR discussed de Lima’s alleged role in it when she was Justice secretary in the Aquino administration.
Duterte also raised again the issue of the UN Rapporteur citing an expert who said shabu doesn’t shrink the brain.
Apparently referring to the June 27 Bulacan massacre that killed five members of the Carlos family, Duterte said two women were raped, and “all are dead,” then lambasted critics who trivialize the gravity of such crimes “with human rights and due process.”
Still ad-libbing, Duterte affirmed his willingness to be jailed on human-rights or due-process issues. “Wag ninyo akong takut takutin ng preso [Don’t threaten me with jail]….Shit, I’m willing to go to prison for the rest of my life.”
He said he was not obliged to make the minority happy. “But when the time comes, kung malasin ako, mapunta ako sa preso [if I end up in prison], don’t worry about me.”
He then repeated his earlier claim that he had at some point killed criminals when he was mayor of Davao City, but invited critics to look at the transformation of Davao City, from a wild, anarchic city to a prosperous one: “What city is now hitting 9% growth? Binobomba pa kami [To think we are even being bombed]!”
He urged Congress “to act decisively on this (capital punishment) contentious issue,” reminding everyone that the Philippine criminal system is anchored on the Revised Penal Code heavily influenced by the Spanish colonizers. The underlying essence of the RPC is “retribution,” said Duterte, a former prosecutor before being elected Davao mayor.