Press Release
October 10, 2018


On 18 December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved a Resolution reaffirming previous moratoriums on the death penalty. It reiterates that the prohibition of arbitrary taking of life is a jus cogens norm that applies to all States. This landmark resolution demonstrates once again the primacy of human dignity which should not be devalued by such punitive measures as the capital punishment that leads to irreversible and irreparable consequences.

This year, on the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty, it is imperative to remind ourselves of that most fundamental of all rights: the entitlement to life, which is inherent, inalienable, universal and non-derogable. It is a right that belongs to us all regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity and expression, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other statuses.

It is a right first recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequently adopted and amplified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all of which are ratified by the Philippines. The right to life is of such importance that some regional state groupings have open, public, and institutional policy support for its protection. Specifically, in 2017, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, issued a joint Declaration that unequivocally opposed the death penalty. Similarly, the Organization of American States, through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, developed its Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty. These firm and unequivocal efforts to move away from the death penalty are the outcome of rights-based developments in law and in science that point to the flaw in the typical argument that the imposition of death penalty is a key deterrent to the commission of heinous crimes. What deters and resolves crimes rather is a well-oiled and thoroughly functioning criminal justice system, one that ensures swift and certain accountability for the crimes committed and the imposition of commensurate penalties to the wrongdoers.

In my own humble way as a human rights defender and legislator, I am trying to do my share of advocating against the death penalty. In 2016, in one of the very first bills that I filed, I was pushing for the introduction into Philippine criminal laws the penalty of qualified reclusion perpetua, to ensure that, even in extraordinarily heinous crimes, our policy direction looks at restorative justice over punitive or retributive measures, while equally aware and conscious of the need to bring to justice perpetrators of the most egregious offenses.

Today, I join fellow human rights defenders and the global community in renewing and sustaining the campaign against the death penalty. May we all recall, by way of self-reflection, the words of the late Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, thus:

"Can the state, which represents the whole of society and has the duty of protecting society, fulfill that duty by lowering itself to the level of the murderer, and treating him as he treated others? The forfeiture of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict it on another, even when backed by legal process."

No to death penalty! Yes to all measures that uphold and protect human dignity!


Custodial Center, Camp Crame

10 October 2018

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