Death penalty in PH: How it started

Marje Pelayo   •   July 26, 2019   •   5974

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

Guevarra on order to probe corruption in entire gov’t: ‘Toughest task from Duterte’

Robie de Guzman   •   October 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday said that the order for him to conduct a government-wide probe of corruption is his “toughest” assignment ever received from President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a taped speech aired on Tuesday morning, Duterte directed the DOJ to expand the role of its task force, which probed the alleged anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), to cover the entire government.

He also authorized the DOJ to decide on which allegation to investigate taking into consideration the gravity thereof and their impact on the delivery of government service.

The chief executive also granted DOJ the power to create as many panels as necessary and direct other government agencies to be part of such committees.

Duterte said his directive will remain in effect until the end of his term on June 30, 2022 unless sooner lifted or revoked.

“Apart from my usual responsibilities as SOJ, this new assignment is the toughest I have ever received from the President,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

“I will need all the support and cooperation of the entire government machinery to achieve this singular objective of substantially reducing corruption in government,” he added.

Considering the scope of the task, Guevarra said he will first determine the overall strategy and the order of priorities as well as the setting up of the expanded anti-corruption task force.

“Tentatively, I am thinking of creating several strike forces that will simultaneously attack various corruption-prone agencies,” he said.

Guevarra also said that he intends to immediately focus on the organizational set-up and mechanism that will carry out the president’s directive.

The Justice Secretary added that it would also help if government workers and other people would come forward to provide the task force with the necessary information to uncover corrupt activities and identify perpetrators.

“The new and expanded anti-corruption task force will take it from there,” he said.

The DOJ already leads an inter-agency task force, formed in August, that probed alleged corruption in the PhilHealth which resulted in the filing of complaints against several officials, including former PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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Duterte promises to settle PhilHealth’s multi-million debt to Philippine Red Cross

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte assures the public that the government will settle what it owes to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing. 

The President said the government will present its plan to the Commission on Audit (COA) and will look for funds through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Itong Red Cross, wag ka mag-aalala, babayaran ito (To the Red Cross, don’t you worry. You will get paid). We’re just looking for a way to present the solution to COA pati sa Budget. Do not worry we will pay. It will take time but we will pay, we will look for the money,” he said during his public address, Monday evening (October 19).

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the government hopes to settle at least 50 percent of more than P930 million owed to PRC as soon as possible.

“We hope to settle at least 50% of that amount as soon as possible. And the rest also within reasonable time,” he said.

The arrears came from expenses incurred by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to the PRC in relation to the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR testing for coronavirus infection.

The President reiterated that the government’s priorities amid the pandemic are providing medical attention to the Filipinos and procuring medical equipment.

He also believes that the PRC through its chairman Senator Richard Gordon will understand the government’s position on the matter.

“What I’m really trying to say is we will pay. Sabi ko kay Senator Gordon, because he heads the Red Cross, na babayaran ko ito,” the President said. 

Nonetheless, the government has assured the public that the COVID-19 testing in the country will not be affected by the debts owed to the PRC.

Specimens from returning overseas Filipino workers as well as from frontliners which used to be accommodated by the PRC will now be sent to more than 100 accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country for processing. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte wants more mobile police to deter street crimes

Marje Pelayo   •   October 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte wants to improve the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) mobile capacity to enhance their capability to fight criminality, specifically street crimes. 

In his public address on Wednesday (October 14), the President expressed concern over the increasing rate of street crimes with the reopening of the country’s economy even amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Chief Executive expressed the need to further train cops, procure more motorbikes and improve police visibility to deter motorcycle-riding suspects.

“We have seen an upsurge of hold ups, street crimes because of the liberality offered by the opening of the economy and of course, people are now allowed to go freely and travel,” he said.

“The only way to counter anonymity of the criminals is also to fight the criminal on the ground,” he added.

READ: PH crime rate dropped by 47% during community quarantine period — JTF COVID Shield

In September, the PNP reported that crime rate or incidents of eight focused crimes in the country dropped by 47 percent during the six months of community quarantine from March 16 to September 15, 2020.

However, the PNP still recognize the need to continuously maintain police visibility, beat patrol and coordination among barangay officials to back the existing peace and order measures amid the current pandemic. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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