Country Profiles

Rodrigo Duterte showing diagram of drug trade network

In the Philippines, the new President Duterte, sworn in on 30 June 2016, has sought to reintroduce the death penalty in his first bill before the House of Representatives.

Assuming it is supported there, it will go to the 24 member senate for debate and a vote.  Following the nonviolent “People Power” revolution of 1986, toppling the Marcos military regime, the then new President Corazan Aquino quickly abolished the death penalty.  It was subsequently reintroduced by President Ramos in 1993, on a crime busting election platform, only to be abolished again in 2006 by President Arroyo.

So, for 3 decades, it has been a subject of debate and action. The Philippines has ratified the key international document, the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, undertaking in international law that no one in the Philippines shall be executed. 

Despite the legal framework currently being worked through, there is another terrible reality of mass extra judicial killings occurring on a daily basis.  The President came to power on a strong reform agenda, with a heavy emphasis on getting rid of drug crime.  In the first 100 days of his Presidency, over 3,500 people have reportedly been killed in so called extra judicial killings.  The combination of circumstances is volatile. The President uses unusually inflammatory and aggressive language, effectively condemning those caught up in drug crime.  Simultaneously, huge numbers of people reportedly on ‘lists’ have been killed either allegedly resisting arrest, or by assassins on motorbikes who often leave an accusatory sign around the neck of the victim.  Some are calling for much greater efforts to investigate the killings.

Within the Philippines, there is currently significant support for the President, and little condemnation of the extra judicial killings.  This is perhaps because of the strong reformist approach of the President on other matters, and widespread anger and dissatisfaction arising from crime levels, and the weaknesses in the criminal justice system. With the ongoing killings, the rule of law is being shaken to its core.