Death Penalty in the Philippines Essay


But six yearsafter it has reimposed the death penalty, the Philippines has overtaken its Asian neighbors and hasthe most number of death convicts.Within less than a year, however, the military establishment was lobbying for its reimposition as ameans to combat the “intensifying” offensives of the CPP/NPA guerrillas. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, thenChief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and later elected President of the Philippines in 1992,was among those who were strongly calling for the reintroduction of the death penalty againstrebellion, murder and drug trafficking.

In mid 1987, a bill to reinstate the death penalty was submitted to Congress.

Military pressure wasvery much evident in the preamble which cited the pestering insurgency as well asthe recommendations of the police and the military as compelling reasons for the reimposition ofthe death penalty. The bill cited recent right wing coup attempts as an example of the alarmingdeterioration of peace and order and argued for the death penalty both as an effective deterrentagainst heinous crimes and as a matter of simple retributive justice .

When Ramos was elected as President in 1992, he declared that the reimposition of the deathpenalty would be one of his priorities. Political offenses such as rebellion were dropped from thebill. However, the list of crimes was expanded to include economic offenses such as smuggling andbribery.

In December 1993, RA 7659 restoring the death penalty was signed into law. The law makersargued the deteriorating crime situation was a compeling reason for its reimposition. The mainreason given was that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. In 1996, RA 8177 was approved,stipulating lethal injection as the method of execution. Six years after

Last February 5, 1999, Leo Echegaray, a house painter, was executed for repeatedly raping hisstepdaughter. He was the first convict to be executed since the re-imposition of death penalty in1995.His execution sparked once again a heated debate between the anti and the pro-death penaltyforces in the Philippines with a huge majority of people calling for the execution of Echegaray. Thatthere was a strong clamor for the imposition of the death penalty should be viewed from the pointof view of a citizen who is desperately seeking ways to stop criminality.The Estrada administration peddled the death penalty as the antidote to crime. The reasoning wasthat if the criminals will be afraid to commit crimes if they see that the government is determinedto execute them. Oppositors maintained that the death penalty is not a deterrent and that therehave been studies already debunking the deterrence theory. Legislators and politicians refused toheed the recommendation of the Supreme Court for Congress to review the death penalty riding onthe popularity of the pro-death penalty sentiment Six years after its reimposition, more than 1,200 individuals have been sentenced to death andseven convicts have been executed through lethal injection.

Yet today, there are no signs thatcriminality has gone down.From February 6, 1999, a day after Leo Echegaray was executed, to May 31 1999 two leadingnewspapers reported a total of 163 crimes which could be punishable by death penalty. But perhapsthe best indicator that this law is not a deterrent to criminality is the ever-increasing number ofdeath convicts.From 1994 to 1995 the number of persons on death row increased from 12 to 104. From 1995 to1996 it increased to 182. In 1997 the total death convicts was at 520 and in 1998 the inmates indeath row was at 781. As of November 1999 there are a total of 956 death convicts at the NationalBilibid Prisons and at the Correctional Institute for Women.As of December 31, 1999, based on the statistics compiled by the Episcopal Commission on PrisonerWelfare of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, there were a total of 936 convictsinterned at the National Bilibid Prisons and another 23 detained at the Correctional Institute forWomen. Of these figures, six are minors and 12 are foreigners.

One of the reasons as to why human rights groups oppose the death penalty is because of theweaknesses and imperfections of the Philippine justice system. This is very much evident in thereview of death penalty cases made by the Supreme Court from 1995 to 1999. Two out of everythree death sentences handed down by the local courts were found to be erroneous by the SupremeCourt.Out of the 959 inmates the SC reviewed 175 cases involving 200 inmates from 1995 to 1999; 3cases were reviewed in 1995, 8 in 1996, 8 in 1997, 38 in 1998, 118 in 1999.Of these 175 cases, the SC affirmed with finality and first affirmation only 31% or 54 casesinvolving 60 inmates. Of these cases 24 were affirmed with finality, while the remaining 36 weregiven first affirmation.Sixty nine percent (69%) or 121 cases were either modified, acquitted or remanded for retrial.Eighty four (84) cases involving 95 inmates were modified to reclusion perpetua, 10 cases involving11 inmates were modified to indeterminate penalty, 11 cases involving 11 inmates were remanded tolower court for retrial and 16 cases involving 23 inmates were acquitted by the SC..

In a study prepared by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), it pointed out that the result ofthe review of cases done by the Supreme Court “point all too clearly to the imperfections,weaknesses and problems of the Philippine justice system”. Some decisions of the trial courts wereoverturned for imposing death penalty on offenses which were not subject to death penalty. Otherdecisions of the lower courts were set aside because of substantive and procedural errors duringarraignment and trial. Still others were struck down because the lower court mis-appreciatedevidences.In a survey conducted among 425 convicts in 1998, 105 or 24.7% were agricultural workers, 103were construction workers, 73 were transport workers, and 42 were in workers in sales andservices. Only 6% finished college while 32.4 % finished various levels of high school while theremaining did not go to school or have finished only elementary or vocational education It is perhaps important to point out that out of these 46 crimes punishable by death, the deathpenalty has been applied to only 17 crimes.

No one has been convicted of qualified bribery, qualifiedpiracy and plunder. Interestingly also, no public official has been sentenced to death for crimesinvolving public officials.Yet, the government maintains that it is effective in combatting crime. Under the death penaltylaw, 46 crimes are considered heinous and are now subject to the death penalty. It imposes themandatory death penalty on 21 crimes while the other 25 crimes are death eligible. These arecrimes for which a range of penalties including the death penalty is imposed.Some Congressmen and Senators are proposing other lists of crimes to add to the above. Some evencontemplated lowering the age of those punishable by the death penalty to include youthfuloffenders.The death penalty is an easy way out for a government in the face of a strong outcry from thecitizenry who wanted the government to stop criminality. It is being used to create the illusion thatthe government is doing something to stop the crimes when in fact it is not.Sad though it maybe, more lives would be lost unless the death penalty in the Philippines is repealed. SANTOS A. LABANPHILIPPINE ALLIANCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATESAquino administration


According to the 1987 Constitution,Art. III (Bill of Rights), Sec. 19.(1) Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted.Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, theCongress hereafter provides for it. Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced toreclusion perpetua.In mid-1987, a bill to seeking to reinstate the death penalty for 15 ‘heinous crimes’ includingmurder, rebellion and the import or sale of prohibited drugs was submitted in Congress. 1988

In 1988, the military started lobbying for the imposition of the death penalty. Then Armed Forcesof the Philippines Chief General Fidel Ramos was prominent among those calling for thereintroduction of the death penalty for rebellion, murder and drug-trafficking. The militarycampaign for the restoration of the capital punishment was primarily against the CPP-NPA, whoseoffensives then included urban assassination campaigns.Anti-death penalty groups including Amnesty International opposed the bill, but the House ofRepresentatives voted for restoration by 130 votes to 25. 1989

Three similar bills were put before the Senate. After a bloody 1989 coup, President Aquinocertified as urgent one of these bills on the prompting of Ramos. The said bill again proposed deathpenalty for rebellion, as well as for sedition, subversion and insurrection. 1990

The Senate suspended the vote on death penalty for a year
1991 The Senate did not agree to move to a decision.

Ramos administration

A series of high profile crimes during this period, including the murder of Eileen Sarmenta andAllan Gomez, created public impression that heinous crimes were on the rise. The Ramosadministration succeeded in restoring death penalty.


President Fidel Ramos during his first State of the Nation address declared that hisadministration would regard the restoration of the death penalty a legislative priority, and urgedCongress to take speedy action. 1993

Ramos signed into Republic Act 7659, the new death penalty law, on December 13, 1993. 1994
Republic Act 7659 took effect on January 1, 1994.

Republic Act No. 8177, which mandates that a death sentence shall be carried out through lethalinjection, was approved on March 20, 1996. Estrada administration Seven death convicts were executed during the Estrada administration before he announced amoratorium on executions. 1999 Leo Echegaray, 38, was executed by lethal injection on February 5, 1999. He was the first to beexecuted after the Philippines restored death penalty. It was the Philippine’s first execution in 22 years. Six more men followed within the next 11 months.


On March 24, 2000, Estrada imposed a de facto moratorium in observance of the Christian JubileeYear. He also granted 108 Executive Clemencies to death convicts.On December 10, 2000, Human Rights Day, Estrada announced that he would commute sentences ofall death convicts to life imprisonment. He expressed his desire to certify as urgent a bill seeking arepeal of the Death Penalty Law.

Arroyo administration

Please see Gloria Arroyo on death penalty–a timelineWhile the Arroyo administration has been characterized by a flip-flopping stand on death penalty,no death convict has been executed under her watch.Voting separately, the two Houses of Congress on June 6, 2006 repealed the death penalty law.Arroyo signed Republic Act 9346 on June 24, 2006. The law prohibited the imposition of the deathpenalty. History of death penalty in
the Philippines

The history of the death penalty was extensively discussed by the Supreme Court in People vs.Echegaray. [1] As early 1886, capital punishment had entered the Philippine legal system through theold Penal Code, which was a modified version of the Spanish Penal Code of 1870.

The Revised Penal Code, which was enforced on 1 January 1932, provided for the death penalty inspecified crimes under specific circumstances. Under the Revised Penal Code, death is the penaltyfor the crimes of treason, correspondence with the enemy during times of war, qualified piracy,parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping, rape with homicide or with the use of deadly weapon orby two or more persons resulting in insanity, robbery with homicide, and arson resulting in death.The list of capital offenses lengthened as the legislature responded to the emergencies of thetimes.In 1941, Commonwealth Act (C.A.) No. 616 added espionage to the list. In the 1950s, at the heightof the Huk rebellion, the government enacted Republic Act (R.A.) No. 1700, otherwise known as theAnti-Subversion Law, which carried the death penalty for leaders of the rebellion. From 1971 to1972, more capital offenses were created by more laws, among them, the Anti-Hijacking Law, theDangerous Drugs Act, and the Anti-Carnapping Law.

During martial law, Presidential Decree (P.D.)No. 1866 was enacted penalizing with death, among others, crimes involving homicide committedwith an unlicensed firearm.In the aftermath of the 1986 revolution that dismantled the Marcos regime and led to thenullification of the 1973 Constitution, a new constitution was drafted and ratified. The1987Constitutionprovides in Article III, Section 19 (1) that:Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neithershall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congresshereafter provides for it.

Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusionperpetua.Congress passed Republic Act No. 7659 (entitled “An Act to Impose the Death Penalty on CertainHeinous Crimes, Amending for that Purpose the Revised Penal Code, as Amended, Other SpecialPenal Laws, and for Other Purposes”), which took effect on 31 December 1993.Constitutional challengeThis is extensively discussed in the case of People vs. Echegaray. (For editing)Abolition of death penaltyOn 24 June 2006, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act No. 9346,entitled “An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines”

Effectivity of the new law

Section 5 of R.A. No. 9346 specifically provides that it shall take effect immediately after itspublication in two national newspapers of general circulation. This is pursuant to Article 2 oftheCivil Codewhich provides that laws shall take effect after 15 days following the completion oftheir publication either in the Official Gazette, or in a newspaper of general circulation in thePhilippines, unless it is otherwise provided.R.A. No. 9346 was published in Malaya and Manila Times, two national newspapers of generalcirculation on 29 June 2006. Accordingly, R.A. No. 9346 took effect on 30 June 2006. [2]

Illustrative cases

As a result of the abolition of the death penalty, existing penalties for death were reducedtoreclusion perpetua, within the possibility ofparole. Here are illustrative cases:

The case of People of the Philippines vs. Quiachon


involves an accused who raped his 8-year olddaughter, a deaf-mute. Under Article 266-B of theRevised Penal Code, the imposable penaltyshould have been death. With the abolition of the Death Penalty, however, the penalty was reducedtoreclusion perpetua, without the possibility of parole under theIndeterminate Sentence Law.

The case of People of the Philippines vs. Santos


involves therapeof a 5-year old child. Theaccused was meted the penalty of death because rape committed against a ¶child below seven (7) years old· is a dastardly and repulsive crime which merits no less than the imposition of capitalpunishment under Article 266-B of theRevised Penal Code. The sentence was also reducedtoreclusion perpetua, without the possibility ofparole.

The case of People vs. Salome

involves arapeof a 13-year old girl (who got pregnant), committedin a dwelling and with the aid of a bladed weapon. The imposable penalty should have been death,but with the abolition of the Death Penalty, theSupreme Courtreduced the penalty toreclusion perpetua, without the possibility ofparole.

The case of People of the Philippines vs. Tubongbanua

involves the murder of a victim whosuffered 18 stab wounds which were all directed to her chest, heart and lungs. Considering theexistence of the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation and the aggravatingcircumstances of dwelling, and taking advantage of superior strength without any mitigatingcircumstance, the proper imposable penalty would have been death. However, with the abolition ofthe death penalty law, the penalty imposed wasreclusion perpetua, without the possibility ofparole

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