If you know who Manny Pacquiao is, you probably know him as the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing. You probably know him as the fighter the Boxing Writers Association of America, World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization named “Fighter of the Decade” in the 2000s. But Pacquiao isn’t just a boxer. He’s also a politician in the Philippines; a Senator, to be exact. And he’s using his political platform to call for reinstating the death penalty for drug crimes.
It’s not just a rhetorical move, either. This week, Senator Manny Pacquiao filed a bill that would impose both the death penalty and a fine ranging from $20,000 to $200,000 USD for anyone importing, selling, cultivating, manufacturing, distributing and even possessing illegal substances. The same would go for anyone who maintains or operates any infrastructure, buildings or other assets as part of the drug trade.
Pacquiao Calls for Death Penalty Amid Escalating Drug War
Under President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in 2016, the Philippines has been catapulted into a brutal drug war that has led to the deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos to date, according to Human Rights Watch. Most of the victims have been poor residents living in Manila, Davao City and other urban centers in the country. And while 2,555 of those killings were the work of Philippine National Police, most have been carried out by vigilante, criminal and paramilitary groups operating at the behest of Duterte and other senior officials.
The large-scale extrajudicial violence against anyone suspected of drug crimes is a hallmark of Duterte’s administration. The killings are basically official drug enforcement policy. And there’s ample evidence to suggest police and other groups committing the killings are falsifying evidence and planting drugs and weapons on victims to justify their murder.
Just this past Sunday, a 3-year-old girl became the latest casualty of Duterte’s drug war, when police shot her to death during a raid targeting her father. “There will be more killings,” Duterte said in March. “It won’t end tomorrow for as long as there is a drug pusher and drug lord.”
Pacquiao Death Penalty Bill Sparks Wave of Similar Proposals in Philippine Senate
While Duterte is waging his violent crackdown on drugs outside of the law, lawmakers in the Philippine Senate are working to reinstate the death penalty for people convicted of drug crimes. And Senator Manny Pacquiao started that trend.
Pacquiao’s Senate Bill 189 imposes execution or imprisonment until death and heavy fines for drug offenders. “The future of our nation is in peril due to the extent of drug use instigating crimes,” Pacquiao wrote in the bill. “This is despite the country’s efforts on drug supply and demand reduction programs.”
“Stringent government response is needed through an aggressive policy. Countermeasures should be upgraded against this social menace,” Pacquiao added.
Pacquiao’s bill makes a distinction between drug offenders and those who “protect or coddle” violators. Simply help a drug dealer, and you’ll face life imprisonment and fines. But if you possess illegal drugs, you’ll be executed. Pacquiao’s bill calls for the death penalty for anyone possessing just 500 grams of marijuana or 10 grams of opium, heroin, cocaine, hash and other illegal drugs.
And Senator Pacquiao isn’t alone. Two other Philippine Senators, including, highly ironically, one nicknamed “Bong,” are introducing death penalty bills for drug offenders this month.