Death penalty to deal heavier blow on the poor —UN special rapporteur

Death penalty to deal heavier blow on the poor —UN special rapporteur

UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston said Thursday that the poor would suffer the brunt of death penalty, which is proposed to be revived in the Philippines.

“Death penalty, even when it is officially applied, is a punishment that affects much more severely those who are not well-off financially,” Alston said in a video message presented at the National Congress Against the Death Penalty held in Pasig City.

“They are the ones who are least able to defend themselves, they are the ones who are unlikely to be able to get a decent lawyer, who are not going to be able to challenge the judicial system,” he added.

Arguing against the idea that the re-imposition of death penalty would deter crimes and give more teeth to the law, Alston said it might actually lead to “a dramatic weakening of the rule of law,” especially when the power to take lives is vested upon the “unrestricted hands” of few people.

He noted that there are two classifications of death penalty.

“You have formal penalty, meaning legally-sanctioned, state-administered killing where an individual goes through the legal process and is finally condemned to death, and then the sentence is carried off,” he said.

“But we also have what we can call an informal, unofficial death penalty and that’s even more traumatic in its consequences,” he added, noting that state-sponsored vigilante killings fall under this category.

The spate of killings in the Philippines, both during police operations and  summary executions, amid the Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs have seized the attention of local and international human rights advocates.

President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly said he is ready to answer and die for his campaign which he said only aims to protect the Filipino people and the generations to come.

During his fourth State of the Nation Address, the President also urged Congress to reimpose death penalty in the country for crimes related to drugs and plunder.

Four lawmakers filed death penalty bills in the Senate—focusing on offenses involving illegal drugs, plunder, and other heinous crimes.

Both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) expressed support to the President’s agenda, saying that capital punishment will “add more teeth to the crusade against crime, drugs, and corruption.

Alston, however, said that based on the experience of various countries he visited around the world, killing has not been a proven panacea for problems on illegal drugs.

“The flashy killing of significant number of people might achieve other government objectives but it does nothing in terms of eliminating long-term drug problems,” he said. LBG, GMA News

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