Just when the world thought the situation in the Philippines couldn’t get any worse, President Duterte and his government managed to prove us all wrong.
In a shocking and saddening turn of events for the Asian nation, lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill to bring back capital punishment for drug-related crimes, after it was abolished when former President Gloria Arroyo signed legislation in June of 2006.
Further to this disturbing move, the bill is specifically for drug offenses such as the manufacturing or possession of large quantities of narcotics and it excludes crimes such as rape, kidnapping-for-ransom, and other offenses which are now seemingly considered lesser crimes.
On Tuesday of this week, members of the Philippines House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted 216 to 54 with one abstention. The bill must now go to the Senate for approval.
The return of capital punishment in the Philippines, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, will permit death by hanging, firing squad, or lethal injection.
This is a dark twist in an already bloody drug war that has killed more than 8,000 Filipinos since Duterte took office only eight months ago.
Most of the killings have been extrajudicial, which authorities have attributed to vigilantes. These killings were a result of the President giving his full consent for citizens to carry out murder at their leisure, against suspected drug dealers and users.
Clearly, the President is not the only one who is in favor of this move. Robert Ace Barbers, the Head of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs stated that death for those who manufacture and possess large volumes of narcotics was appropriate. Opponents of the bill spoke out, describing it as barbaric and regressive.
President Duterte has seen a very strong backlash from the United Nations and its member countries for his extremely violent stance on drugs and punishment. Marijuana.com contacted the Canadian Embassy in the Philippines regarding his vigilante drug war and we received this response from Jocelyn Sweet, a Spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada:
“The rule of law and respect for due process are fundamental principles for all free, open, and democratic societies. Canada is closely following developments in the Philippines. We have held conversations with members of the government of the Philippines, including at the ministerial level, during which the Philippines was encouraged to abide by its international human rights commitments.”
For the moment, the harsh criticism of these massive human rights violations have fallen on deaf ears. Other than refusing to travel to this once pristine island paradise, which relies on tourism for over 10 percent of its GDP, the most the world can do at this point is watch and wait to see what happens next.