President Duterte Calls to Revive the Death Penalty

The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, requested to revive the death penalty a few days ago, solely for drug-related crimes.

HIgh level drug offenders could go from prison to the death penalty, if Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to revive it is sucessful. Jody Davis. CC0.

HIgh level drug offenders could go from prison to the death penalty, if Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to revive it is sucessful. Jody Davis. CC0.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress to revive the death penalty for drug-related crimes on July 22, during his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Speaking before a joint session of Congress, he first brought up the revival as the first priority legislative measure in his fourth Address, according to Rappler. His party, PDP-Laban, currently has a supermajority in the House of Representatives. He mentioned the 5-month siege that evolved between the state and extremists after terrorists held onto drugs in Marawi in May 2017, citing it as a prime example as to why further action and harsher actions were and are necessary.

Duterte’s war on drugs has been ongoing since his candidacy in 2016. He has been calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty for the same length of time. He also requested capital punishment in his 2017 SONA.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, a trusted aide to the president, won his senatorial election in 2019 on a single promise: to bring back the death penalty for drug-related crimes.

Duterte also effectively began a war on corruption in Filipino society. On July 19, three dozen of Duterte’s critics were charged with sedition and cyber libel after a series of anonymous videos that accuse the president and his family of having monetary links to the illegal drug trade, according to Newsweek

Amnesty International believes the call will only increase the country’s environment of exemption from punishment during the continuous war on drugs.

However, Senate President Vicente Sotto III believes that restricting the reinstatemnt of capital punishment to high-level offenders would be more likely to pass in the Senate. He also mentioned this bill would be among the first to be discussed. Two years ago, the House of Representatives passed a measure for the death penalty for crimes related to drugs.

“The state of our nation is a state of mourning. We should not be burying our children amid deadly and ill-conceived police raids,” said Butch Olano, Section Director for Amnesty International Philippines, according to Amnesty International.

There has been one conviction of police officers, for the killing of a 17-year-old boy. During a police operation in late June 2019, a three-year-old girl and a police officer were killed. The girl’s mother and the government both have different stories about the operation. Overall, so far the Philippine government has noted at least 6,000 killings at the hands of police officers. Amnesty International has found that there are many more unlawful killings, likely done by armed people with ties to the police.

Olano says that, despite being told to file cases before the courts if they feel there has been an unlawful death or that the police have acted illegally, many families are too afraid to speak up. There are also the problems of costs or being unable to secure evidence or the police reports.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is meant to deliver a report in June 2020 on the state of human rights in the Philippines. President Duterte’s remarks didn’t commit to assisting with this report, which was requested last month in a resolution by the UN Human Rights Council, particularly since Duterte has been accused of human rights abuses. 

Duterte has been battling against drugs since before he was elected in 2016. Requesting the revival of the death penalty for drug-related crimes may be extreme, but it isn’t terribly unexpected from this president. If this request passes, Duterte’s war on society’s corruption will most likely increase, as he will have already have gained one victory. Amnesty International’s prediction also seems likely of coming true. However, if this request isn’t passed, it’ll be a blow to Duterte’s war on drugs. The war itself will continue, but this particular battle won’t. The human rights report will be written throughout this year and next, regardless of what happens with the death penalty. President Duterte is already under investigation, though the Philippines will become an even more dangerous place if the death penalty is passed in any form.






NOEMI ARELLANO-SUMMER is a journalist and writer living in Boston, MA. She is a voracious reader and has a fondness for history and art. She is currently at work on her first novel and wants to eventually take a trip across Europe.

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Filipino Human Rights Advocate Sister Cresencia Lucero Honored

Above is a collection of drug paraphernalia, including syringes and a cigarette. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte began a war on drugs in 2016, and Sister Cresencia Lucero, who died May 15, fought against it as a human rights advocate. Matthew Rader. CC0.

Above is a collection of drug paraphernalia, including syringes and a cigarette. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte began a war on drugs in 2016, and Sister Cresencia Lucero, who died May 15, fought against it as a human rights advocate. Matthew Rader. CC0.

Crescencia Lucero of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, also known as Sister Cres, passed away May 15 from a stroke. She was attending a meeting on human rights in Jakarta, Indonesia with the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) at the time, a cause she devoted much of her life to. Lucero was 77.

Lucero was a major figure in the Filipino human rights community. She headed the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines' Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation ministry (AMRSP). Lucero also worked with several human rights organizations with other religious leaders, such as the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).

AMRSP includes hundreds of religious congregations, for both men and women. The organization as a whole works with various social issues and coordinates congregations, lay groups, and other organizations’ combined actions on those same social issues, including poverty, human trafficking, and labor rights, among others. In October 2015, it organized an ecological walk for justice. The organization was also able to arrange a justice march for the climate.

Rodrigo Duterte began the 2016 war against drugs with his presidential campaign, in which he urged people to kill drug addicts. After winning the presidency, he launched his drug policy, aiming to neutralize illegal drug personalities. Following his inauguration, Duterte said he would order police to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy. Duterte also released lists of people who were allegedly part of the illegal drug trade, which often included politicians. Since 2016, over 12,000 Filipino people have been killed due to the war on drugs, according to Human Rights Watch. At least 2,500 deaths were due to police. HRW has also shown that police reports show killings to be justified as self-defense. Lucero would stay awake nights to monitor and visit places where drug dealers had been killed. Her organizations referred people to drug rehab centers, though there weren’t very many centers or treatments at the time. Her organizations also opened churches as sanctuaries to victims whose rights were violated, including children who witnessed or were injured during drug-related shootings and raids. The drug war continues to be a major human rights issue, and in November 2018, three police officers were found guilty for the murder of a 17-year-old; the sentence was seen as a rare moment of responsibility.

Lucero spoke of the issue in October 2016, in an interview with Global Sisters Report: “But then when the killings started and those who were targeted were the small people, the poor, especially in the urban poor communities—there's no more distinction between drug pushers and drug users. The drug pushers are also users, but most of those being killed now are the users who are pushed into it because of the situation with poverty. If you look into the families and communities of those who are most victimized, it's the poor ones.

Redemptorist priest Oliver Castor, spokesman of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, said that during the martial law years (1972-1981, specifically), Sister Lucero was one of the people who assisted in providing safe haven for people. AMRSP opened convents and churches as sanctuaries for those who were in need, whether that meant families, extended families, or even grandparents. Even now, there is still a facilitation desk at AMRSP for sanctuaries, though the last case was in 2008.

During that same period, Lucero was the co-chair of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, which assisted political prisoners with moral, spiritual, material, and legal help when then-President Marcos banned organizations. The task force continued after marital law was lifted because of the vast number of political prisoners who remained. In 2014, Lucero said in an interview with Global Sisters Report that they have helped around 100 detainees a year. She made it clear that their main thought was to be supportive to the families of the victims.

When asked how she continues doing her work in the same interview, Lucero said, “I tell the Lord every night I am ready any time, “Take me. You have blessed me with so many opportunities.” So when I have to travel, I put my things in order, even my bedroom. Anything can happen.”


A number of ecunemical gatherings were held in Lucero’s honor in Manila the week of May 24. Her tireless work with human rights, the poor, and protecting people against martial law mark her as a person who truly felt for and worked with humanity. Father Toledo, a Franciscan, put it well when he said to UCA News that Sister Lucero "faithfully performed the duties of a true Franciscan and a true Christian."\






NOEMI ARELLANO-SUMMER is a journalist and writer living in Boston, MA. She is a voracious reader and has a fondness for history and art. She is currently at work on her first novel and wants to eventually take a trip across Europe.

noemi_summer.jpg