Today, as we celebrate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we, young Filipinos stand united in recognizing as regressive, anti-people, and anti-poor the Duterte administration’s policy of restoring the death penalty, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR), and the vigilante-style “war on drugs.” This government’s policy runs contrary to President Duterte’s claim to genuine, forward, and transformative change that we demand.
On the Restoration of the Death Penalty
We vehemently condemn the move to restore capital punishment in the country through House Bill no. 1 for we believe that the purpose of criminal justice is to rehabilitate convicted criminals, that is to bring them closer to humanity even after having erred. We believe in a view of Justice that allows the person to reform and reintegrate as a changed person into society, one that affirms human dignity and the right to life.
We reject this policy for even if we consider the end goal of the measure of restoring capital punishment, that is to deter crime, the claim holds no scientific evidence. As research shows, the death penalty will not deter crime. On the contrary, in 1999, the bumper year for executions, the national crime volume, instead of abating, ironically increased by 15.3 percent or a total of 82,538 (from 71,527 crimes in the previous year). In addition, the Supreme Court released that 71.77 percent judicial error rate in capital cases in the period from 1993 to 2004, years when we still implemented the death penalty.
In addition, restoring the death penalty is a direct violation of international agreements ratified by the government. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” We believe that the act of murder, especially as it is rendered by State instruments must be condemned.
Further, women’s groups have been expressing that the death penalty deters victims-survivors, especially among children from reporting rape. Women fought for the abolition of death penalty, alongside human rights advocates for 20 years, only to be restored by this administration in a matter of months.
We believe that in the end, this policy only puts already oppressed Filipinos in a more vulnerable position. When the poor are unable to afford effective attorneys during trial, they may not be able to make the most effective case for themselves. The majority remain at the losing end at the cost of a false promise of a lower crime rate.
Back in 2006, the government already repealed the death penalty (RA 9346). Let us not regress as a society by reinstating the death penalty, and inhumane retributive form of punishment.
On Lowering The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR)
We strongly denounce the lowering of MACR which seeks to revert the MACR from 15 years old to 9 years old. The motion to criminalize children who are but victims of violence and exploitation neglects their dignity as persons. This undermines their human right to security — a right that is most essential especially with regard to their status as one of the most vulnerable sector in any society.
When the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act or JJWA (RA 9344) was enacted in 2006, the MACR was raised from 9 years old to 15 for the purposes of complying to the international standard that 9 years is an unacceptable age of criminal responsibility.
Children are dependent on adults for survival; their everyday activities are influenced by those who nurture and provide for their needs. The government recognizes this through RA 9344 as amended by RA 10630 that seeks to strengthen the juvenile justice welfare system in its commitment to always deliberate and enact motions that serve the best interests of Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) throughout the justice process. However, the implementation of JJWA which House BIll No. 2 seeks to amend has been very weak: programs enacted in pursuant of the law are underfunded, government facilities for rehabilitation operate like jails, and incarcerated children are being subjected to inhumane conditions.
The prevalence of CICLs in the country is a manifestation of the incompetency of both the local and national government as well as of child custodians to provide a safe space for children. The move to lower MACR rejects the underlying issues why children are involved in criminal activity to begin with. House Bill No. 2, in seeking to divert the blame from the real problem seeks to make use of children as a scapegoat for the persisting socio-economic problems that only capitalize on their vulnerability. JJWA was crafted precisely to protect children from harmful elements and we owe its full implementation to them.
Ten years ago, RA 9344 was enacted partly to raise the MACR in order to reinforce the protection of children and now, there is an attempt to nullify that change. To scrap efforts to improve the country’s conditions will not pave way for progress. To return to the Philippines that was a decade ago is a backward notion of development; to revert the MACR from 15 years old to 9 is definitely not the way forward.
On the President’s “War on Drugs”
While drug traffickers deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, we condemn the fact that the current campaign has taken on an arbitrary, discriminatory and anti-poor tone that has led to the deaths of thousands of poor Filipinos.
The President’s careless pronouncements calling for the indiscriminate killing of even suspected drug dependents all connected to drugs, emboldened the police to shoot and kill those who are suspected of using or selling drugs. Worse still, the President has also encouraged citizens to take matters into their own hands, which has heartened vigilantes to protect the streets, killing their fellow citizens. This has fortified a culture of violence of an unprecedented magnitude. Since the President has taken office, this cruel war on the poor has already taken 5,882 lives from 01 July 2016 to 06 December 2016.
The poor are easy targets in this war. Not only have structures in society forced the poor to resort to or sell drugs to escape the pains of day-to-day life, the poor also live in penetrable communities where armed people can easily enter, and safety is a daily concern. The poor also cannot afford the protection, legal and otherwise, that those of means can afford. To attest to this, Oplan Tokhang has been asymmetrically enforced—homes of the poor are searched through haphazardly, while gated villages are able to protect their residents from being searched or able to dictate the terms of the operation.
Most of all, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the blatant disregard for human rights that the President and his administration has exhibited time and time again. Drug dependency is not merely an issue of security or crime, but one of public health. Drug dependency can be addressed with rehabilitation, which in October 2016, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella has said is actually the new goal of its anti-drugs campaign. Despite this, many continue to be killed on the streets.
The state must not kill Filipinos, but aid them in improving their lives through a rehabilitative approach in order to let them move past their chemical and economic dependency on drug.
The change we demand
We the Filipino youth demand nothing less from the government than for it to recognize the fundamental human right to life– that is for the government to affirm that all have the right to live a life free from fear, to live a life worth living. Such cannot be attained through the Duterte administration’s myopic view of progress that takes the short route which in the end, does nothing but breed a culture of violence.
We demand that the government instead invest in youth development programs that provide opportunities for us young Filipinos to improve our lives and to develop our skills, a government that likewise seeks to increase our participation in institutions that affect our lives and the lives of others. We hope for programs that enable young people like us to dream of better solutions for our country.
We demand that this government stop its sexual attacks on women, especially those who are critical of it. The President and his men, who have been encouraging the rape culture and the treatment of women as objects, should be made accountable.
We demand that the government instead focus on social welfare measures that alleviate poverty which we recognize as the root cause of many of society’s ills, measures that should lead to the transformation of oppressive political, economic, and social structures towards structures that take the primacy of the fundamental human right to life.
With this view, we call on the Filipino youth to stand and fight! Let us demand accountability from President Duterte and reject his administration’s policies that bring us back to the old age of strongman dictatorship and the preponderance of vigilante-style extrajudicial killings. We shall continue to resist forms of change that lead to our regression as a society so as to assure our future and the future of our nation.
Sigaw ng kabataan: Pagbabagong pasulong, hindi paurong!
Itigil ang mga paatras na polisiya ng gobyerno ni Duterte!
Kilalanin ang karapatan sa buhay ng mamamayang Pilipino!
Alliance of Progressive Labor Youth (APL Youth-SENTRO) • Kilos Kabataan ng Ateneo
Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy (USAD AdMU) • PUP SPEAK
Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE)
Marikina Polytechnic College Supreme Student Council (TINDIG-MPC) • Akbayan Youth