Pressure (in) Congress — On the Death Penalty
The anti-death penalty movement is finally gaining ground and its impact can be felt in the corridors of congress. As we move room to room to engage offices in conversations about the death penalty, the pressure can be felt and tensions have increased.
House Speaker Alvarez has been very vocal about his position on representatives that will not follow the party lines — strong arm tactics are being used. The pressure is there. And thus you enter an environment in congress where representatives and office staff would say “undecided”, “we can’t say”, or “just wait for the vote”.
They promised to pass the bill in October 2016, they couldn’t. They promised to do so by December 2016, but they failed to do so as well. They wanted to begin 2017 with the DP bill passed by January, they couldn’t push through with it. Now, concessions are being made — the bill is getting watered down. Time is running out for them.
The voting for the 2nd hearing was supposed to be done on March 8. They decided to move it earlier to February 28, one week away from today. Those going against death penalty are becoming more vocal. Is the majority afraid of losing more votes to the anti-death penalty advocates?
The more positive of me says that we’re winning. But we haven’t won yet. And that will be the challenge — to keep the pressure on congress. We only have one week left.
Collective action is what we will be needing to bring about positive change and to go against policies that are anti-democratic and are against basic human rights. On top of the efforts of groups lobbying and campaigning against death penalty, the movement of death penalty has been hindered because people are dissenting, because people are speaking up, because people are mobilizing.
So how can we help? In this week before congress votes on 2nd hearing for the re-imposition of the death penalty, we can:
1. Support the organizations who are going against this policy. Share content from their pages (https://www.facebook.com/iDEFENDHumanRightsandDignityMovement/) and inform your friends about development
2. Send letters/FB messages/tweets to your congresspersons requesting them to vote against the bill
3. Consider spending sometime volunteering to lobby in congress
4. Attend the plenary hearings (especially on the day they will vote on the bill which is on February 28) which are Tuesdays and Wednesdays 4pm onwards
5. To start discussions in your own circles and institutions and to join mobilizations. Think about the topic, don’t fall into the trap of powerless, convince others and talk about it. When the talk dies, the topic dies, and it disappears from the consciousness of people. That’s probably the last thing that advocates want to happen.
Honestly, something inside me is pushing and hoping that we can win this battle, because I think we actually can. We can win this battle, with just a bit more pressure. And after 8 months of losing, I deeply want us to win.
For reference, here are the key arguments of Amnesty International on the re-imposition of the Death Penalty:
- The death penalty: a violation of human rights
- The Philippines’ obligations under international law as a state party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty
- Against the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty
- Inconsistency with Philippines international position on death penalty
- The death penalty as the ultimate denial of rehabilitation
- Death penalty as a crime control measure despite lack of evidence of its deterrent effect
I guess I want to make this a small tribute to the silent warriors who have been spending time in congress to convince our legislators to go against the re-imposition of the death penalty.
This is a big THANK YOU to the people who’ve been involved in the issue since this administration took over, and who have been tirelessly doing advocacy work and campaigns since last year. Without them, this bill would have passed through congress swiftly.
So thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for leading the battles in the hallways of congress, for organizing information sessions and reaching out to the public for support, and for persevering especially in the moments and times when encouragement and support from the public was lacking. Thank you for fighting for the protection of human life.