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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
H.E. DR. ALBERTO G. ROMULO
LET US PRESERVE THE SANCTITY OF LIFE
Ministerial Event on the Death Penalty Organized by Italy and Portugal
New York, 28 September 2007
Much progress has been achieved in many areas of human existence – from the quality of life, to human longevity, to human rights, and even to the conduct of war.
Every effort of humankind, it would seem, is focused on improving and preserving life.
Ironically, a cruel, barbaric and absolutely unnecessary vestige of darker times remains – the death penalty.
The question of the use of the death penalty can be a sensitive and complicated issue. For my country, it involves our most central and deepest conviction about the sacredness of human life.
In June of this year, the Philippines finally abolished capital punishment, following years of suspending its use in our criminal justice system. In doing so, we reaffirmed that the sanction of death – especially when there exist non-lethal means of criminal punishment – devalues human life and violates human dignity.
In removing the death penalty, the Philippines gave even more life to the fundamental commitments in our Constitution to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights.
Today, public attitudes are changing in favor of the respect for life.
There is evidence that many are seriously re-examining and reconsidering the use of the death penalty – its fairness and effectiveness, its social and moral dimensions.
The growing number of countries adopting provisions to abolish the death penalty or declare a moratorium on its use is also proof of the fact that cases in which it is absolutely necessary to execute the offender are very rare, if not practically non-existent.
The Philippines hopes that these developments can build enough momentum in order that criminal justice systems around the world can be more respectful of human life.
Although my country has abolished the death penalty, some of our nationals have not been spared its bitter touch.
With ten percent of our population living in other countries, several have been executed. Several others are on death row.
As a country that values life, even that of the unborn child, we struggle with this fact and do what we can to save their lives.
Today, we do not merely reaffirm our collective conviction on this issue.
This event also represents our preparedness to contribute to broader constructive dialogue on it. The death penalty, indeed, arouses deep passions and convictions, where people of good will and intent can disagree.
Nonetheless, in widely engaging with others, we offer neither judgment nor condemnation, but instead aim to encourage dialogue. This, we hope, may lead to deeper and more pragmatic re-examination of policies.
Let us together assess how we can build a culture of life in which we will not be bound anymore by the paradox of ‘righting a wrong’ by the taking of another life.
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