25 Jun 2006

Philippines stops death penalty

By Sarah Toms
BBC News, Manila

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has signed a law abolishing the death penalty just two weeks after Congress passed the legislation.

As a result the sentences of the 1,200 inmates on death row will be now be commuted to life imprisonment.

Mrs Arroyo said she welcomed the change but insists she is not softening her stance on fighting crime or terrorism.

Mrs Arroyo has been under pressure from the influential Roman Catholic church to scrap capital punishment.

The signing comes as she prepares to head to Rome for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

Earlier this month legislators in the Philippines, a mainly Catholic country, voted overwhelmingly to abolish capital punishment. By Philippine standards the bill was pushed through in record time.

Violent crime wave

In a speech Mrs Arroyo said "we yield to the high moral imperative dictated by God to walk away from capital punishment".

Earlier she had assured the public that the end of the death penalty did not mean there would be a soft stance against criminals.

The Philippines is plagued by violent crime with guns readily available and used in even minor disputes. Supporters of capital punishment say they fear the repeal will result in more crime.

The repeal comes just days before Mrs Arroyo visits the Vatican for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

Some analysts see the repeal of the death penalty as an attempt to win support from bishops for the president's plan to move to a parliamentary system of government.

Others say Mrs Arroyo is trying to diffuse opposition from the church to the government's efforts to revive mining.

The death penalty was abolished once before in 1987 but was re-imposed seven years later after a rise in crime.

Under that law seven executions were carried out by lethal injection, but in 2000, the then president, Joseph Estrada, ordered a moratorium after strong lobbying by the church, the European Union and human rights groups.


Thought this may be of interest since Philippines, it appears, despite their crime rates (which is seen as higher than Singapore), opposes the death penalty. The article also mentioned that Arroyo was under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church to scrap capital punishment. The Pope's Special Envoy Cardinal Renato Martino was in Singapore for a few days to visit Nathan. Did the religious leader pressurise the Singapore government on the death penalty? Apparently not, else it would have made news...


Anonymous said...

Maybe that's becuase the Philippines is a Cathoilc country.. they'd abolished the death penalty before but reinstated it again..

- said...

Tsk tsk. News appears for more reasons. IT is rumoured (open secret) that Singapore is going to make the mandatory death penalty either discretionary or abolish it entirely.

Matilah_Singapura said...

Bad move.

Aroyo ain't a Maggie Thatcher, that's for sure ;-)

lee hsien tau said...

I agree.

GMA (or anyone else for that matter) can commit murder or genocide, then immediately abolish the death penalty to save their own asses.

By all means abolish, but should not cover crimes already committed (whilst not necessarily brought to trail due to cover-up etc etc).