On 15 February 2017, APHR hosted a forum in Manila focused on the possible reintroduction of capital punishment in the Philippines. The event, entitled, “Legislators for Life: A Dialogue on the Death Penalty and Regional Responses,” brought together lawmakers and other stakeholders to discuss a bill to revive the practice being debated in the Philippine House of Representatives. Members of the Philippine Congress and MPs from Cambodia and Malaysia addressed bill’s national and regional implications, as well as alternatives to capital punishment. The event was also attended by Congressional staff and representatives from the Commission on Human Rights, civil society, academia, embassies, and the media.
Philippine Members of Congress in attendance included Rep. Tom Villarin, Rep. Edcel Lagman, and Sen. Risa Hontiveros. They were joined by Mu Sochua (MP, Cambodia) and Kasthuri Patto (MP, Malaysia), who shared experiences from their respective countries, including their own campaigning against capital punishment.
Mu Sochua discussed Cambodia’s history and current status as another ASEAN country where the death penalty has been formally abolished by law. She called on other ASEAN member states to consider reforms and preventive measures to address crime and drug use, rather than state-sanctioned killing. Kasthuri Patto argued that the Philippines represents a regional leader in the effort to abolish capital punishment, and that it is critical that the country stand firm in its position of abolition because of the potential regional and international implications of a decision to revive the death penalty. Participants from the Philippines further noted that reintroducing capital punishment would violate the Philippines’ international commitments under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and argued, based on international data and domestic experience, that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime.
Following the forum, the lawmakers participated in a press conference, during which they presented solidarity statement signed by 15 parliamentarians from Cambodia and Malaysia urging the House to reject the bill currently before it. In the letter, the MPs expressed solidarity with their Philippine counterparts who are fighting the bill and called on the Philippines to maintain its position of regional leadership in the ongoing struggle for death penalty abolition.
MPs Mu Sochua and Kasthuri Patto later visited the Philippine House of Representatives, where they observed a debate on the death penalty bill. A solidarity dinner with APHR members, other Philippine legislators, and CSOs was organized after the Congressional session.