Panelo says Congress has authority to re-impose death penalty

THE Philippine Constitution has left open the re-imposition of the death penalty for heinous crimes.

CHIEF Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Thursday said Congress has the authority to re-impose the death penalty if there are compelling reasons involving heinous crimes.

Panelo made this comment as the Senate announced its resumption of hearings on the revival of the death penalty within this month.

He said that while Section 19 of Article III of the 1987 Constitution prohibited the imposition of the death penalty, the same provision authorized the Congress to pass a law which can re-impose the death penalty “for compelling reason involving heinous crimes.”

“In other words, Congress has the authority to re-impose the death penalty, provided that, it finds compelling reasons involving heinous crimes,” Panelo said.


Contrary to critics’ claims, Panelo explained that re-imposition of the penalty was not inconsistent with the Philippines’ treaty obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

“The said instrument allows the imposition of the death penalty and only limits its application to the most serious crimes,” he said.

He also explained that treaties could not be in conflict with the country’s Constitution which “has higher authority over any legal instrument whether it be passed or ratified by the Congress.”

Equal standing

Panelo said while the second optional protocol of the ICCPR mandated the abolition of death penalty, the ICCPR still could not, however, prevail over Congress’ authority to re-impose capital punishment.

“Treaties ratified and incorporated and made part of the law of the land are only given equal standing with, and are not superior to our laws,” Panelo said.

“Hence, like any other law, a treaty may be repealed by a later act of Congress if it deems that such is warranted under the present circumstances or is violative of our Constitution,” he added.