Filipinos prefer imprisonment over the death penalty for drug-related crimes — SWS

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Reimposing the death penalty in the Philippines comes with a few possible repercussions, including treaty violations, a court battle, and the inevitability of human error. Illustration by CARINA SANTOS

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 11) A study showed more Filipinos prefer imprisonment as punishment for drug-related crimes, instead of the death penalty. 

The Social Weather Stations released a special report Wednesday that showed that majority (53 to 78 percent) of Filipinos said criminals should be sentenced to either 20, 40 years imprisonment or for life for the following crimes:

  • Importation of illegal drugs
  • Maintenance of drug dens
  • Manufacture of illegal drugs
  • Murder under the influence of drugs
  • Sale of illegal drugs
  • Working in drug dens
  • Rape under the influence of drugs

Of the seven crimes, the strongest demand for death penalty is for rape under the influence of drugs with 47 percent. For the remaining six crimes, only 22 to 33 percent chose the death penalty as punishment. The survey also specified that 51 to 55 percent prefer life imprisonment, and 15 to 24 percent prefer imprisonment for 20 years or 40 years for the the drug-related crimees without rape.

The survey was conducted in March 22 to 27, 2018 for the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP).

It also found that 54 percent of Filipinos are in favor of the current constitutional prohibition on capital punishment.

However, more than half of respondents, or 59 percent, said death penalty should still be reinstated to deter crimes. They said death penalty should be imposed on "people who were proven by the courts to have really committed heinous crimes."

Thirty-two percent of respondents disagreed with the reinstatement of death penalty, most of them citing religious reasons. Forty-two percent disagreed, saying death penalty is ""Hindi makatao at labag sa batas ng Diyos" and "Diyos lang may karapatan kumuha ng buhay."

[Translation: It is inhumane and it is against God's will, God has the sole right to take a life.]

The remaining 21 percent believe criminals could still reform and other alternatives to death penalty should be considered.

Capital punishment was abolished in the Philippines in 2006. Its restoration would be inhumane, unlawful and an ineffective response to the drug problem, human rights watchdog Amnesty International has said.

The study also showed there is less trust in courts in sentencing criminals to death penalty. Three in five people (68 percent) said those who were sentenced to death were mainly "poor people who could not afford a good lawyer." However, the same number of people believe death penalty should still be imposed if the court is certain that it would not wrongfully execute innocent persons.

The death of the victim was also a determining factor in the response to death penalty. Majority (76 percent) agreed that if the crime did not result in the death of the victim, they should just be sentenced to life imprisonment. Only 12 percent disagreed.

According to SWS, the March 2018 National Survey on Public Perception on the Death Penalty is the "first survey in the Philippines to explore thought processes and disentangle layers of perceptions about the death penalty." It polled 2,000 respondents aged 15 and above with 400 respondents each from Metro Manila, North and Central Luzon, South Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The survey has sampling error margins of ±2.2% at the national level, and ±5% in each study area.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the reimposition of death penalty remains a priority of the administration but they will leave the matter to the Senate.

"The President would still try gentle persuasion, but it's really a decision of the senators now," Roque said in August.

The House of Representatives approved a death penalty bill related to manufacturing and trading illegal drugs by a 217-54 vote in March last year, but whether it has a chance in the Senate remains moot.

READ: Senate President Sotto favors death penalty for drug trafficking cases