CHR 'ready to engage' next Congress in 'frank, factual' discussion about death penalty

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 19) — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is prepared to engage in a "frank and factual" conversation about capital punishment with members of the 18th Congress, the agency's chair said Sunday.

In a statement, Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said the CHR is ready to "present the ineffectiveness of the death penalty and offer viable programs" to deter criminality, including improved police visibility and community vigilance.

"The Commission does not want crime to go unpunished. However, the apprehension, prosecution, conviction and punishment of those who have committed wrong doings must be in accordance with human rights standards and principles," Dumpit said.

The 17th Congress will adjourn in less than three weeks.

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III earlier said there is a stronger possibility of restoring capital punishment in the Senate, as allies of the President Rodrigo Duterte--who has pushed for the revival of the death penalty--have dominated the partial, official tally of votes. Of the 12 probable senatorial race winners, 10 are in favor of the return of death penalty.

“In the new Senate, there’s a possibility of 13 [votes for death penalty] for high-level drug trafficking alone,” Sotto said, noting that death penalty for other heinous crimes may not flourish.

READ: Sotto sees opening for death penalty revival in next Senate

In 2017, the House of Representatives passed a bill restoring death penalty, but a counterpart measures was stalled in the Senate.

Death penalty was abolished under the 1986 Constitution, but the Charter gave Congress the power to reinstate it for heinous crimes. Capital punishment returned under the administration of President Fidel Ramos, but was abolished again under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Philippines is also a signatory to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which commits countries to abolish death penalty.

"We also have to ensure that our legal obligations as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Second Optional Protocol aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty are respected and fulfilled. As a state party to these human rights treaties, we have perpetually committed not to impose nor reintroduce capital punishment," Dumpit said.