Thursday, August 6, 2020

More than 100 youth groups and individuals sign #NoToDeathPenalty statement

Wazzup Pilipinas!

As the House Committee on Justice is hearing the bills reviving the death penalty in the Philippines today, more than 100 youth groups and individuals from across the country have signed a statement against the revival of capital punishment.

The group Akbayan Youth is expecting more organizations and individuals to express their dissent against the death penalty, especially as the multiple crises during the pandemic are worsening.

On his State of The Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte conveyed his plan to bring back the death penalty via lethal injection, despite the entire country falling deeper and deeper into the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. We, the youth, reject a future of deaths, from this unaddressed pandemic and the looming death penalty. Here are our reasons:

The death penalty is a ploy to wage a war against the poor. According to the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), in the period where the country had the death penalty, most people in the death row did not reach college and were paid below the minimum wage. The poor are more likely to be subject to the death penalty than their wealthier counterparts due to the lack of resources to defend themselves in court.

The death penalty as a deterrent to crime is a myth. Studies on the cases in the US, Singapore, and Hong Kong have shown that imposing the death penalty is not in any way correlated to the rise and fall of crime rates. In fact, the countries with the lowest crime rates such as the Scandinavian countries do not employ the use of capital punishment. Their focus is on eliminating the conditions that lead to the crime and strengthening their justice system to ensure the likelihood of conviction. We should be fighting poverty itself--not the poor who are victims of a cruel, unjust social system.

Death is irreversible. In a justice system as flawed as ours, people can fall victim to mistrials and erroneous sentencing. In a 2004 decision by the Supreme Court, they revealed that appeals on death penalty convictions showed that majority of people sentenced to death were mistaken convictions! The death penalty will only add to the killing machine that targets the most vulnerable.

The incompetence of the Duterte administration is already a death penalty in itself. Day by day, Filipinos are not only dying due to the government’s abysmal performance in protecting families, but also of hunger and desperation to return to work and school. The imposition of the death penalty is another trick to maneuver our attention away from the swell of COVID-19 cases.

Our vigilance against crimes should also be directed at those in positions of power. We need to put an end to the system of governance that has done nothing but to perpetuate a culture of violence and oppression. We should be protecting Filipino families against the greedy who profit off of the pandemic, the powerful who endanger workers’ health and safety, and the paranoid who terrorize ordinary citizens for asking questions. We need to save more lives not compete with the virus in killing more Filipinos. ###


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