World

Duterte's plan for daily executions in Philippines labelled 'barbaric'

MANILA Philippine Catholic leaders and rights groups yesterday condemned President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to restore the death penalty and execute "five or six" criminals daily as "barbaric".

Mr Duterte, 71, has made reviving the death penalty his top legislative priority as part of a brutal war on crime that has killed 5,300 people.

"There was death penalty before, but nothing happened. Return that to me and I would do it every day; five or six (criminals). That's for real," Mr Duterte said on Saturday.

An official at the influential Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said the church "totally opposed" Mr Duterte's plan.

"The Philippines will be viewed as very barbaric," Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary at its public affairs office, told AFP. "It's going to make the Philippines the capital of death penalty in the world."

The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006 following fierce opposition to the penalty from the Catholic Church, the religion of 80 per cent of Filipinos.

Before assuming office in June, Mr Duterte vowed to introduce executions by hanging and viewed the death penalty not as a means to deter crime, but for retribution.

The United Nations' human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said in a letter to the Philippine congress this month that reviving the death penalty would violate the country's international obligations.

But on Saturday Mr Duterte insisted executions were necessary to fight the drug scourge that he said was "destroying" the nation. Catholic leaders and rights defenders have instead urged the government to reform a slow and corrupt justice system, which they said was likely to send innocent people to death row.

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