Senate suspends death penalty hearing indefinitely

MANILA -- The Senate on Tuesday suspended the hearing on the proposed reimposition of death penalty after concerns on possible violation by the Philippines of an international treaty was raised during the deliberations.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said that Philippines happens to be a signatory to the Treaty of International Convention on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office.

"We are suspending because there is a supervening event -- the treaty of international convention on civil and political rights -- which states that all executions should not be continued, was ratified," Gordon told reporters in an interview.

During the discussions on the death penalty bills filed by at least three senators, Sen. Pres. Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon mentioned it was clear that death penalty could not be revived because of the treaty commitment.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon, who represented Justice Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre II, said the Philippines could still withdraw from the treaty.

Drilon, however, pointed out that the country should first withdraw from the treaty before discussions on death penalties bills are continued.

"We have ratified the treaty and we have concurred in ratification with the treaty. If you're saying we can withdraw from this, shouldn't we withdraw from the treaty first before we discuss any matter related to the reimposition of death penalty?" So that we will not be in violation of international law?" Drilon said.

Fadullon agreed to suspend the hearing to clarify the matter on being able to honor international commitments and get position of Aguirre on the matter.

In a separate interview, Drilon said that he did not know how passing the death penalty bill could be justified "in the face of this clear international treaty obligation."

Drilon said that among repercussions was that the Philippines could be cited for purposes of being denied preferential trade treatments in other countries.

"For example, the European Union has a general system of preference wherein our products have no tariff. If we violate our international treaty, that can be reviewed by the EU and that can be the basis for withdrawing the benefits," Drilon said.

But more importantly, Drilon said the Philippines will be isolated from the international community for not being able to honor the treaty commitment.

"It is a big deal in the international arena if we do not know how to honor what we have signed," he added.

Drilon said the country should first go through the process of getting the concurrence to withdraw from the treaty.

He, however, said that the ability to withdraw is "not a settled question" because there is no process of withdrawal in this particular treaty or no provision that allows withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Gordon said that passing the death penalty bill would be a violation to the treaty which could make Pres. Rodrigo Duterte culpable of a violation of the Constitution.

Gordon said that he was not aware of any similar cases in the past but said that it would not fare well for the Philippines to withdraw from the treaty.

He, however, said that he believed that the case was not "ironclad."

The hearing on death penalty bills will resume, Gordon said, after the Department of Justice (DOJ) send in its position paper by next month. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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