MANILA, Philippines – Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin warned that the government may lose billions of dollars in revenues should the Philippines reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes.
On Tuesday, February 21, Villarin interpellated Capiz 2nd District Representative and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, one of the principal authors of the controversial death penalty measure or House Bill (HB) Number 4727.
Villarin argued that the return of capital punishment will violate the Philippines’ obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bans state parties from reimposing the death penalty.
The passage of HB 4727 into law, Villarin said, has implications for the Philippines’ beneficiary country status for the European Union-Generalized System of Preferences Plus (EU-GSP+) as well.
The EU-GSP+ is a preferential tariff scheme that allows the Philippines to export more than 6,000 products, including fruits, coconut oil, footwear, fish, and textile, to any EU member-country tariff-free.
"One of the prerequisites of us entering into such a trade agreement is the abolition of the death penalty," said Villarin.
"In fact, if we lose this GSP+ trade status and this data is our own data, we will lose up to 200,000 jobs in agriculture and manufacturing, especially in Mindanao," he added.
He said that Philippine export sales to the EU showed exports "jumped to 6.8% to $7.17 billion" in 2015, with the EU considered as the Philippines' 4th largest trading partner accounting for 11.56% of total exports.
"So in effect, if now we will reimpose the death penalty and we will violate the Second Optional Protocol and it will affect the GSP+ international trading status, we will lose roughly around $12.8 billion in bilateral trade," said Villarin.
"Ano'ng kapalit? Wala. Patayan. (What is the price? Nothing. Killings.) Execution…. The death penalty bill has implications that goes beyond what is intended," he added.
Castro, however, refused to respond to Villarin's point, saying that the latter's arguments had already been mentioned by other congressmen in past interpellations.
"This representation is lost and confused because the gentleman from Akbayan has discoursed volumes of recycled issues and matters that have already been discussed by previous sponsors and interpellators. But he has not posed any question," said Castro.
"In any event, Madame Speaker, distinguished colleague, as in by way of reaction, to the discourse to the gentleman from Akbayan, let me invoke the previous answers of the previous sponsors to the same questions and the same issues raised by other interpellators prior to the distinguished gentleman from Akbayan, Madame Speaker," he added.
Reimposing the death penalty for heinous crimes is a priority measure of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is allied with a majority of congressmen. (READ: An eye for an eye: Can the death penalty bring justice to victims?)