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Friday, December 9, 2016

Death Penalty and Lowering Age of Criminal Liability will Create “Death Row Kids”


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A progressive senator strongly opposed to the government’s plan to reimpose the death penalty and lower the age of criminal liability expressed alarm that the simultaneous efforts to reinstate the death penalty and lower the age of criminal liability will result in minors landing on death row.

In a press conference organized by Amnesty International-Philippines, Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros said that the death penalty and the age of criminal liability lowered from 15 to 9 is a "deadly combination that will condemn Filipino children to a dark and sinister future in which they will become death row kids.”

Hontiveros also expressed serious concerns that the consolidated death penalty bill contradicts the government’s supposed rehabilitation and reformation programs for convicted drug users and criminals. “The broad scope of crimes punishable by death, including the mere possession of illegal drugs, is extremely bothering. What is therefore the point of building a mega-drug rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija if the government wants all the drug addicts killed anyway?” the senator asked.

It was reported that the death penalty bill is now slated for plenary debates after the House justice committee on Wednesday approved the consolidated bill. It enumerated the following crimes punishable by death, namely: treason; piracy in general and mutiny on the high seas or in Philippine water; qualified piracy; qualified bribery; parricide; murder; infanticide; rape; kidnapping and serious illegal detention; robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons; destructive arson; plunder; possession of dangerous drugs; Carnapping, among others.

The mode of capital punishment could either be through hanging, by firing squad or lethal injection.

Hontiveros said that there are no empirical proof that shows that death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime. She also said that the death penalty is a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment, which has a disproportionate impact on the poor and little guarantee that innocent people would not be sentenced to death.

“Who could forget Flor Contemplacion and the ongoing case of Mary Jane Veloso? In fact, some of our national heroes were victims of the death penalty themselves. Dr. Jose Rizal and the Gomburza priests were executed by firing squad and garrote respectively simply for standing up for equal rights, freedom and democracy,” Hontiveros said.

The senator also drew attention to reports that the House Committee on Justice Subcommittee on Correctional Reforms has already conducted hearings on the bills seeking to lower the age of criminal liability. She said that this is against the country’s international treaty obligations and will only push children already in conflict with the law to a life of hard crime.

“Putting children aged 9, who are not psychologically developed enough to understand the nature of crimes, in prison will merely turn them into hardened criminals. It will only stigmatize them and trigger repeat offense. What they need is to recover their sense of dignity and self-worth through rehabilitation and education programs under a fully-implemented Juvenile Justice Law," Hontiveros said.

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