Reign of terror
More bullets will hit the poor and the marginalized. The 7,000-death toll of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is already proof to the state’s monopoly on violence, but the worse is yet to come with the passage of a bill arming the state with extra loaded guns.
With the backing of staunch allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, the lower house of the Congress swiftly approved House Bill (HB) 4727 or the death penalty bill which restores capital punishment on heinous crimes—a policy that was previously abolished in 2006. An overwhelming majority or 217 of the 272 present reps voted in favor of the bill on March 7, despite the clamor of the masses to deter the bill’s passage.
Its proponents were certain the proposed bill will protect the innocent, but the version they approved only supports Duterte’s drug war and is bent toward the interests of the rich. They removed plunder alongside treason and rape as crimes qualified for capital punishment, and limited the bill to “drug-related” crimes only.
Hence, any individual found guilty of drug-related crimes can be subjected to death penalty, while plunderers like former President Gloria Arroyo and pork barrel queen Janet Napoles can be cleared off of their raps despite stealing millions from the public fund. The poor are set to bear the brunt of the death penalty bill, in addition to the human rights crisis in the Philippines.
For years, the state had its guns aimed at journalists, farmers, farmworkers, national minorities, and activists—sectors who were predominantly poor, easily tagged as criminals by the government through planted evidences. And Duterte’s drug war only exacerbated the killings. The accused are from the urban poor: jobless and have no access to basic social services in their communities.
The death penalty bill is also another futile attempt to fulfill Duterte’s promise to eradicate drugs and crime within six months. Studies from local and international human rights organizations proved there is no correlation between the number of crimes and the presence of a law that allows the state to kill criminals. More so, the previous law’s failure to lower the crime rate was one reason it was abolished during the Arroyo regime.
The bill instead blatantly violates the civilian’s right to life and the prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment as declared in the Constitution and agreements the state is signatory to. It stands in contrast to the public’s outcry to release the 402 political prisoners who were incarcerated for trumped up charges, and the clamor to free accused drug trafficker Mary Jane Veloso who was placed on Indonesia’s death row to pay the price of a crime she did not commit.
If the government is sincere in eradicating crime, it should first address one thing that proliferates it: poverty. This perennial problem, pushing the poor to commit crimes, will not be solved by enforcing another bandage solution such as HB 4727, especially in the case of the Philippines’ flawed justice system that perpetuates a culture of impunity.
Lawmakers should instead push for substantial reforms and policies that will improve the living conditions of the poor. Effective policies entail access of the marginalized communities to basic social services: education, health care, and housing facilities, among others.
However, it is almost certain that a Senate version of the death penalty bill will be passed with the majority of the upper house being devout Duterte supporters. Thus, the Filipino people have the ardent duty to counter the state’s decade-long violence, and support meaningful reforms through the continuation of peace talks that will put an end to the socio-economic problems the country is set into.
The peace talks have already come a long way, with both parties agreeing on the land distribution as the governing framework in the discussion of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, the meat and next agenda of the negotiations.
The call for the Filipino people to unite—take the streets, hold human rights violators accountable, and clamor for social justice—has never been as timely. We have done it before when we stood against tanks and trucks, and toppled a fascist regime. We will do it again: prove that guns and bullets are no match to the people standing united with one call for justice.
Short URL: http://www.philippinecollegian.org/?p=11682