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Unpacking public opinion on the death penalty

Graphic: A man sits in a prison cell

The APF recently took part in a virtual roundtable discussion to review preliminary findings from research conducted by the Philippines’ NHRI.

The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) is in the final stages of publishing a major research study that explores public attitudes towards the death penalty.

The findings of the research will inform the CHR's advocacy to oppose the possible reinstatement of the death penalty in the Philippines.

The death penalty was abolished in the Philippines under the 1987 Constitution, before being reintroduced in 1993 to address a perceived rise in criminality. It was abolished for a second time in 2006.

However, the legislative agenda of the current government includes reimposition of the death penalty, having been mentioned in the State of the Nation Address of the Philippines' President.

Graphic: A room full of people at a meeting of the National Congress against the Death Penalty

Based on the 2018 nationwide survey on public perception on the death penalty, commissioned by the CHR in partnership with the leading polling firm Social Weather Stations, the research delves deeper into the public perception on the death penalty among Filipinos in different parts of the country. It will also include policy recommendations based on the research findings.

This research initiative is supported by the Australian National University Philippines Project.

In late June, the APF, academics and stakeholders from universities and institutions in Australia participated in a virtual roundtable discussion, hosted by the CHR, to discuss the preliminary findings of the research.

Another discussion was held in mid-July with advocates and experts in the Philippines.

The launch of the Commission's study – In Defence of the Right to Life: Analysing Factors Affecting the Filipino Opinion about the Death Penalty – is forthcoming.

The death penalty is cruel, inhuman and degrading – and it has no impact on deterring crime. Consistent and strategic advocacy by NHRIs presents a real opportunity to reduce the use of the death penalty in the region.

Asia Pacific Forum Logo Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director, APF secretariat

APF member institutions have been strong and consistent advocates for abolition of the death penalty in their respective countries.

A 2016 report by the APF's Advisory Council of Jurists (ACJ) found that, despite progress towards abolition in other parts of the globe, the Asia Pacific region continues to disproportionally retain and implement the death penalty.

The report outlines a series of recommendations for NHRIs in retentionist States to consider, including, among others, reviewing their State's criminal code, monitoring trials in all capital cases, and monitoring pre-trial and post-trial detention.

In 2017, the APF provided financial support to three member institutions – the NHRIs of Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines – to assist them in their advocacy efforts, as part of our Abolition of the Death Penalty Project.

Date: 28 July 2020

Image credits

  1. A man sits in a prison cell - APF
  2. A room full of people at a meeting of the National Congress against the Death Penalty - Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines