Despite a vote to restore the death penalty in the Philippines, alleged child abuser and murderer Peter Scully can rest easy — as none of his vile crimes are included in the act.
The death penalty bill that has passed in the country’s parliament by 216 votes to 54 only covers drug-related crimes.
Prominent politicians and prosecutors had argued for the bill to cover some of the crimes that Scully is accused of, such as rape, torture and murder.
However, lawmakers supportive of President Duterte and his war on drugs agreed to drop the crimes of rape, treason and plunder from the list of crimes punishable by death to allow smoother passage of the bill through parliament.
Despite these omissions, Scully’s case was raised during the debate to argue in favour of capital punishment. Pantaleon Alvarez, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said: “Have you watched the news about the paedophile? If you were in that situation, would you have wanted this kind of person alive … even though they abused a one-year-old child?”
The Catholic Church is strongly imposed to the new law, and recently organised huge rallies under the banner “Walk for Life”.
Many international bodies and diplomats have also criticised the plans. UK ambassador Asif Ahmad, for example, said: “The fact is that Philippine national hero Jose Rizal was buried as a martyr, was a victim of a death penalty. The very sense of nationhood in the Philippines stems from that injustice.”
It has also been suggested that the return of capital punishment would violate the Philippines’ obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bans signatories from reimposing the death penalty.
The law would also have implications for the Philippines’ ‘beneficiary country status’ within the European Union-Generalised System of Preferences Plus, a preferential tariff scheme that covers exports worth nearly $13 billion.
The bill will now go to the Senate for final approval while opposition lawmakers have said they will challenge it in the Supreme Court.
Whatever the outcome, the maximum penalty that 53-year-old Scully can currently expect for his 75 charges is life in prison.
Amnesty International described the restoration of the death penalty as a “dangerous path in flagrant violation” of the Philippines’ international legal obligations.
“The idea that the death penalty will rid the country of drugs is simply wrong,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty’s director for south-east Asia and the Pacific.
“The Senate is now the Philippines’ last real hope of upholding its international obligations and rescuing the country from this backward step.”