Death penalty in PH: How it started

Marje Pelayo   •   July 26, 2019   •   1650

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

Duterte to attend ASEAN-ROK summit in South Korea

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 11, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte will attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Republic of Korea (ASEAN-ROK) Commemorative Summit in South Korea from November 25 to 27.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed on Sunday (November 10) that the president will be attending the summit in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the dialogue partnership between the regional bloc and South Korea.

“He will push through with the trip,” Panelo said.

President Duterte and South Korean President Moon Jae-In are also expected to have a bilateral meeting to discuss trade and security issues.

The Philippines and South Korea have recently celebrated its 70th bilateral relations.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte eyes ban on use of plastic

Robie de Guzman   •   November 8, 2019

Plastic along coastline in Cap-Haitien, Haiti | REUTERS

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is eyeing to ban the use of plastics in a bid to mitigate the effects of climate change, Malacañang said.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president mentioned the idea during a discussion on climate change in a Cabinet meeting last Wednesday.

“The president floated the idea to ban the use of plastics, which according to him would require legislative action,” Panelo told reporters but said he is not sure if Duterte was referring to single-use plastics.

There are bills filed in Congress seeking to ban the use of single-use plastics that are currently pending at a committee level.

These measures seek to prohibit food establishments, stores, and markets from issuing single-use plastics, and task manufacturers to control the circulation and disposal of these materials. It also encourages consumers to instead use reusable or other alternative materials.

The Philippines has been listed in a 2015 report as one of the biggest sources of plastic leaking into the oceans, after China and Indonesia.

A recent study by Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) revealed that Filipinos use more than 163 million plastic sachet packets, 48 million shopping bags and 45 million thin film bags daily.

The report called “Plastics exposed: How waste assessments and brand audits are helping Philippine cities fight plastic pollution,” used data from household waste assessments and brand audits conducted by Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) in six cities and seven municipalities across the country in the past five years.

The organization extrapolated the data to calculate daily and yearly plastic usage throughout the country in order to provide new quantitative evidence about plastic pollution in the Philippines.

GAIA said that findings in the report show how cities and municipalities in the Philippines are struggling against plastic residuals despite efforts of many localities to institute Zero Waste programs.

With the projected increase in plastic production worldwide, including in the Philippines, the group said that national governments, as well as local government authorities need robust data and effective strategies to address the looming plastic pollution crisis.

It also called on manufacturers to regulate, and stop producing, single-use plastics.

“We would appreciate kung ang Pangulo will tell Congress na iprioritize nga itong bill on single-use plastic,” Beau Baconguis, an Asia Pacific Plastics Campaigner of GAIA said.

“Dapat hindi lang tignan as a waste disposal issue at waste management issue pero titingnan ang buong life cycle ng plastic at buong problemang kaakibat ng different stages ng production ng plastic,” Baconguis added.

The House of Representatives, for its part, assured it will continue to conduct inquiries on proposals to ban the use of plastics in the country.

“There will be a hearing before the committee level, all the stakeholders shall be heard, and ultimately we shall decide the course,” Cavite Fourth District Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, said.

“The decision of the President will carry much weight in so far as the action of the House of representatives is concerned,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

LOOK: Robredo’s memo to Duterte on acceptance of anti-drug post designation

Robie de Guzman   •   November 6, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday sent a memorandum to Malacañang stating her acceptance of President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer for her to become co-chairperson of the inter-agency committee on anti-illegal drugs (ICAD).

Robredo’s spokesperson, Barry Gutierrez posted a photo of the memorandum on his Twitter account with the caption, “Handa na ba kayo para sa akin?”

The vice president on Wednesday said she has accepted the designation in hopes of stopping the killing of innocent lives under the administration’s anti-drug war.

Duterte made the offer following Robredo’s call to allow the United Nations to investigate his war on drugs, which she said was “not working.”

She later clarified that she meant to urge the administration to assess its campaign.

In a briefing with Malacanang Press Corps, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Robredo is welcome to attend the meeting of the Cabinet on Wednesday.

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