The Philippines Should Join Fellow ASEAN Members in Making Drug Crimes Liable For Capital Punishment

Within the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the following countries allow for capital punishment for those convicted of drug related criminal acts: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos and Brunei. This means that of all the members of ASEAN, only Cambodia and The Philippines currently do not use capital punishment. In Cambodia’s case, the abolition of the death penalty in 1989 was a result of the emotional fallout from the rampages of former dictator Pol Pot, but even so there have been sustained calls in Cambodia for capital punishment to be restored for certain high crimes including drug related offensives – thus bringing the country into line with that of all of its neighbours.

In The Philippines there is clearly strong support for the death penalty’s restoration. In 2017, the House of Representatives voted strongly in favour of restoring capital punishment only for the bill to be stalled by the Senate. Likewise, a 2017 survey by Plus Asia has indicated that 67% of Filipinos are in fact supportive of capital punishment returning to use for serious crimes. Likewise, the popular President of The Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has voiced his support for bringing back capital punishment and use it against convicted drugs criminals.

It is not just among its ASEAN partners where the current ban on capital punishment in The Philippines is out of step with the times. Throughout Asia, capital punishment, including for drug related crimes is the rule rather than the exception. This is true of China, both Korean states, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran and almost all of the Arab world. The United States also allows for capital punishment in certain drug related cases while Donald Trump has indicated that he would like to expand the use of the death penalty against drug traffickers and dealers.

If wealthy countries like China, the US and South Korea execute convicts whose crimes are drug related, than there is no reason why a developing country like The Philippines should waste money to imprison those who have committed crimes against society when innocent people could be fed, housed and given medical treatment with those funds. Furthermore, as most drug trafficking and dealing are crimes of opportunity, individuals lacking a conscience will only go into these black trades if the financial incentive to do so outweighs the possibility consequences. Clearly, as crimes of opportunity involving narcotics are typically committed by the wicked and sane rather than the vicious and insane, a strong deterrent effect made possible by the implementation of capital punishment can be highly effective in stopping crime before it starts.

China for example has made headlines because a Canadian citizen who imported copious amounts of narcotics into the PRC stands to be executed for his criminal activity. The situation at hand was reported in the following way by China’s Global Times:

“China’s Liaoning Provincial High People’s Court will accept and hear the case of appellant Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian citizen, on drug smuggling charges this Saturday. It is reported that the amount of drugs that he allegedly smuggled would astonish the public if announced. 

The trafficking of drugs is a felony in China, especially when the amount is enormous. According to Chinese laws, anyone caught smuggling no less than 50 grams of heroin or methyl Benzedrine or smuggling more than 1 kilogram of opium may face death penalty. 

That’s why the case has triggered large-scale debates over future fate of the Canadian. Yet how the debate goes on, felony is felony. Those who committed serious crimes in China are not entitled to mercy no matter where they came from”. 

The report further states that citizens of European countries with soft drug laws often champion nations like China that take a firm line against such criminality:

“Punishing harshly drug crimes showed China’s zero-tolerance on drug offenses, which extends the same treatment to both Chinese citizens and foreigners who crossed the red line on Chinese soil. Only in this way can the nation effectively stop illegal drug trafficking outside its doorstep. 

After British man Akmal Shaikh was arrested in China for entering the country carrying 4 kilograms of heroin in 2007, he was executed despite appeals from British government. However, many British netizens hailed the move and one of them noted ‘Well done China. It’s a shame the UK doesn’t have the same courage to deal with people like that.’ Hatred against drug traffickers is pretty much the same across the world”. 

Given the fact that nations ranging from Turkey to Russia have held robust debates about reinstating the death penalty and given that nearly all of The Philippines’ partners in ASEAN allow for the death penalty in cases of narco-crime, there is no reason that The Philippines should refrain from offering such a punishment to those who have violated not only the law but a social contract with normal individuals. Furthermore, such a deterrent would make narco-terrorists think twice before committing their heinous acts on Philippine soil.

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