Death penalty in PH: How it started

Marje Pelayo   •   July 26, 2019   •   3743

For more than 400 years, the Philippines had been a colonial territory of Spain and during those times, the death penalty had been in practice for specific crimes such as treason.

Historically known as GOMBURZA, three friars Mariano Gomez, Jose Apolonio Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora were executed by garrote in February 1872.

Years later in 1896, Philippine national hero Jose Rizal was also publicly executed by firing squad in Dapitan, known today as Luneta Park.

During the American regime in 1926, the death penalty by electrocution was introduced.

But the technology was not utilized as no one was sentenced to death under the government of Manuel Quezon, the very first president of the Republic of the Philippines.

After the Philippines’ liberation in 1946, the death penalty remained in effect for crimes like murder, rape, and treason.

In 1950, Julio Gullen was executed for a case of attempted murder against then-President Manuel Roxas.

In 1961, 16-year-old convict and gang leader Marcial ‘Baby’ Ama was incarcerated on an electric chair for murder.

Since then, death by electrocution was sentenced to 51 individuals until 1961.

In May 1972 under the presidency of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, a triple execution took place involving Jaime José, Basilio Pineda and Edgardo Aquino for the 1967 abduction and gang-rape of actress Maggie dela Riva.

The state ordered the execution be broadcast live on national television.

During that time, the death penalty by firing squad also applied to drug-related crimes.

In January 1973, members of the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary delivered the sentence to Chinese Lim Seng.

He was charged with heroin manufacture and trafficking and was executed in Fort Bonifacio, Rizal.

The ouster of Marcos and the end of Martial law paved the way for the crafting of the 1987 Constitution that prohibited the death penalty.

A provision in the Constitution, however, allows Congress to reinstate it for ‘heinous crimes.’

This made the Philippines the first country in Asia to abolish the death penalty.

In 1993, the death penalty was restored under President Fidel Ramos.

A year later, lethal injection replaced the electric chair as the method of carrying out capital punishment.

After 23 years since the last execution was carried out in 1973, six years after its reinstatement, the death penalty was served to Leo Echagaray in 1999 for raping his 10-year-old stepdaughter.

“Today’s execution is proof of the government’s determination to maintain law and order. Let Mr. Echegaray’s death serve as a strong warning against the criminal elements,” then-President Joseph Estrada was quoted saying after the execution.

Known as a vocal opponent of the death penalty, Estrada’s successor Gloria Arroyo in 2000 approved a moratorium to suspend capital punishment but was formalized only in 2006.

That year, sentence to a total of 1,230 death row inmates were commuted from capital punishment to life imprisonment.

Fast forward to today, President Rodrigo Duterte is one vocal supporter of the death penalty since campaign period.

In fact, the restoration of capital punishment for drug trafficking, rape, and other heinous crimes, is among the priority agenda of his administration.

Now halfway of his term, the President is yet to hear from Congress the passage of a law reintroducing the death penalty.

But barely a week after the formal opening of the 18th Congress, three proposed bills have already been filed in the House of Representatives while five versions of the bill were received in Senate.

Most versions want the death penalty to be restored for the crime of drug trafficking but in Senator Bong Go’s version, the crime of plunder has been covered.

But despite the support, the proposal still has its share of criticisms particularly from the human rights advocates primarily the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

The Commission argued that no records in the past could prove that capital punishment has been instrumental to reduce crime incidences in the country.

In fact, even after six other executions after Echagaray in 1999, crime volume in the country even increased by 15.3%.

Instead of abating, figures increased from 71,527 in 1998 to 82,538 in 1999.

But for pro-death penalty groups, capital punishment is reasonable as the current crime rate is higher, most of them are drug-related cases. – Rey Pelayo contributed to this report

Senate OKs bill giving Duterte power to delay class opening during public crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   June 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to grant President Rodrigo Duterte ‘flexibility’ to schedule the opening of classes in schools during a state of emergency.

Voting 23-0, senators on Monday unanimously passed Senate Bill 1541, which proposes to amend Section 3 of the Republic Act 7797, a law which sets the opening of school-year as early as the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.

The measure covers all basic education schools, including foreign or international schools in the country.

Once enacted into law, the bill would authorize the President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Department of Education, to set the opening of classes nationwide or in selected areas at any date during a state of emergency or calamity.

A similar measure has been approved in the committee level in the House of Representatives on Saturday.

The approval of the proposed measure comes amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which has affected millions of people worldwide. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Duterte certifies as urgent bill seeking to toughen PH anti-terror law

Robie de Guzman   •   June 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent a bill that seeks to strengthen the country’s anti-terrorism law.

In a letter to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday, Duterte certified as urgent House Bill No. 6785, which seeks to amend and toughen the Human Security Act of 2007.

In his letter, Duterte said the immediate enactment of the measure is to “address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism in order to adequately and effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of general welfare.”

The House Bill reportedly adopted the Senate version which passed on third and final reading in February.

Under the bill, anyone who threatens to commit terrorism, propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism shall mete out a penalty of 12 years of imprisonment.

It also introduces provisions penalizing those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act; as well as those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.

The measure also includes a new section on foreign terrorist fighters to cover Filipino nationals who commit terrorist offenses abroad.

It also aims to provide law enforcers the much-needed tools to protect the people from terrorism threat and, at the same time, safeguard the rights of those accused of the crime.

Once a bill is certified as urgent, the Senate and the House of Representatives can immediately pass a measure on second and third reading on the same day.

Rights advocates had earlier warned that the bill’s enactment would worsen the human rights situation in the country.

Duterte fires OCD Deputy Administrator Kristoffer James Purisima

Marje Pelayo   •   May 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has dismissed Kristoffer James Purisima as deputy administrator assistant secretary of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD).

According to Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, the President decided to remove Purisima from office due to “loss of trust and confidence.”

Roque could not tell, however, under what circumstance prompted the President to fire Purisima.

Wala na po akong ibang impormasyon (I don’t have additional information) other than he was terminated due to loss of trust and confidence,” Roque confirmed.

The OCD is the government’s main unit responsible for disaster preparedness and response in times of calamity.

Prior to his position in OCD, Purisima served as spokesperson of Task Force Bangon Marawi. MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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