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The Philippines was the d  Asian country that abolished the death penalty in . But six years
after it has reimposed the death penalty, the Philippines has overtaken its Asian neighbors and has
the most number of death convicts.

Within less than a year, however, the military establishment was lobbying for its reimposition as a
means to combat the "intensifying" offensives of the CPP/NPA guerrillas. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, then
Chief 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 against
rebellion, murder and drug trafficking.

In mid 1987, a bill to reinstate the death penalty was submitted to Congress. Military pressure was
very much evident in the preamble which cited the pestering insurgency as well as
the recommendations of the police and the military as compelling reasons for the reimposition of
the death penalty. The bill cited recent right wing coup attempts as an example of the alarming
deterioration of peace and order and argued for the death penalty both as an effective deterrent
against 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 death
penalty would be one of his priorities. Political offenses such as rebellion were dropped from the
bill. However, the list of crimes was expanded to include economic offenses such as smuggling and


restoring the death penalty was signed into law. The law makers
argued the deteriorating crime situation was a compeling reason for its reimposition. The main
reason 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.


Last February 5, 1999, Leo Echegaray, a house painter, was executed for repeatedly raping his
stepdaughter. He was the first convict to be executed since the re-imposition of death penalty in

His execution sparked once again a heated debate between the anti and the pro-death penalty
forces in the Philippines with a huge majority of people calling for the execution of Echegaray. That
there was a strong clamor for the imposition of the death penalty should be viewed from the point
of 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 was
that if the criminals will be afraid to commit crimes if they see that the government is determined
to execute them. Oppositors maintained that the death penalty is not a deterrent and that there
have been studies already debunking the deterrence theory. Legislators and politicians refused to
heed the recommendation of the Supreme Court for Congress to review the death penalty riding on
the popularity of the pro-death penalty sentiment.
Six years after its reimposition, more than 1,200 individuals have been sentenced to death and
seven convicts have been executed through lethal injection. Yet today, there are no signs that
criminality has gone down.

From February 6, 1999, a day after Leo Echegaray was executed, to May 31 1999 two leading
newspapers reported a total of 163 crimes which could be punishable by death penalty. But perhaps
the best indicator that this law is not a deterrent to criminality is the ever-increasing number of
death convicts.

From 1994 to 1995 the number of persons on death row increased from 12 to 104. From 1995 to
1996 it increased to 182. In 1997 the total death convicts was at 520 and in 1998 the inmates in
death row was at 781. As of November 1999 there are a total of 956 death convicts at the National
Bilibid Prisons and at the Correctional Institute for Women.

As of December 31, 1999, based on the statistics compiled by the Episcopal Commission on Prisoner
Welfare of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, there were a total of 936 convicts
interned at the National Bilibid Prisons and another 23 detained at the Correctional Institute for
Women. 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 the
weaknesses and imperfections of the Philippine justice system. This is very much evident in the
review of death penalty cases made by the Supreme Court from 1995 to 1999. Two out of every
three death sentences handed down by the local courts were found to be erroneous by the Supreme

Out of the 959 inmates the SC reviewed 175 cases involving 200 inmates from 1995 to 1999; 3
cases 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 cases
involving 60 inmates. Of these cases 24 were affirmed with finality, while the remaining 36 were
given 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 involving
11 inmates were modified to indeterminate penalty, 11 cases involving 11 inmates were remanded to
lower 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 of
the 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 were
overturned for imposing death penalty on offenses which were not subject to death penalty. Other
decisions of the lower courts were set aside because of substantive and procedural errors during
arraignment and trial. Still others were struck down because the lower court mis-appreciated

In a survey conducted among 425 convicts in 1998, 105 or 24.7% were agricultural workers, 103
were construction workers, 73 were transport workers, and 42 were in workers in sales and
services. Only 6% finished college while 32.4 % finished various levels of high school while the
remaining 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 death
penalty has been applied to only 17 crimes. No one has been convicted of qualified bribery, qualified
piracy and plunder. Interestingly also, no public official has been sentenced to death for crimes
involving public officials.

Yet, the government maintains that it is effective in combatting crime. Under the death penalty
law, 46 crimes are considered heinous and are now subject to the death penalty. It imposes the
mandatory death penalty on 21 crimes while the other 25 crimes are death eligible. These are
crimes 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 even
contemplated lowering the age of those punishable by the death penalty to include youthful

The death penalty is an easy way out for a government in the face of a strong outcry from the
citizenry who wanted the government to stop criminality. It is being used to create the illusion that
the 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.

   ! "!#$% & '"!

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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, the
Congress hereafter provides for it. Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to
reclusion perpetua.
In mid-1987, a bill to seeking to reinstate the death penalty for 15 'heinous crimes' including
murder, rebellion and the import or sale of prohibited drugs was submitted in Congress.

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

Three similar bills were put before the Senate. After a bloody 1989 coup, President Aquino
certified as urgent one of these bills on the prompting of Ramos. The said bill again proposed death
penalty for rebellion, as well as for sedition, subversion and insurrection.
The Senate suspended the vote on death penalty for a year

The Senate did not agree to move to a decision.

 +, *  +*
A series of high profile crimes during this period, including the murder of Eileen Sarmenta and
Allan Gomez, created public impression that heinous crimes were on the rise. The Ramos
administration succeeded in restoring death penalty.
President Fidel Ramos during his first State of the Nation address declared that his
administration would regard the restoration of the death penalty a legislative priority, and urged
Congress to take speedy action.

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

Republic Act No. 8177, which mandates that a death sentence shall be carried out through lethal
injection, was approved on March 20, 1996.

!,, *  +*
Seven death convicts were executed during the Estrada administration before he announced a
moratorium on executions.

Leo Echegaray, 38, was executed by lethal injection on February 5, 1999. He was the first to be
executed 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 Jubilee
Year. He also granted 108 Executive Clemencies to death convicts.

On December 10, 2000, Human Rights Day, Estrada announced that he would commute sentences of
all death convicts to life imprisonment. He expressed his desire to certify as urgent a bill seeking a
repeal of the Death Penalty Law.

++, *  +*
Please see Gloria Arroyo on death penalty--a timeline
While 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 death

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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 the
old 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 in
specified crimes under specific circumstances. Under the Revised Penal Code, death is the penalty
for 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 or
by 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 the

In 1941, Commonwealth Act (C.A.) No. 616 added espionage to the list. In the 1950s, at the height
of the Huk rebellion, the government enacted Republic Act (R.A.) No. 1700, otherwise known as the
Anti-Subversion Law, which carried the death penalty for leaders of the rebellion. From 1971 to
1972, more capital offenses were created by more laws, among them, the Anti-Hijacking Law, the
Dangerous 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 committed
with an unlicensed firearm.

In the aftermath of the 1986 revolution that dismantled the Marcos regime and led to the
nullification of the 1973 Constitution, a new constitution was drafted and ratified. The
1987 Constitution provides in Article III, Section 19 (1) that:

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, the Congress

hereafter provides for it. Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusion


Congress passed Republic Act No. 7659 (entitled "An Act to Impose the Death Penalty on Certain
Heinous Crimes, Amending for that Purpose the Revised Penal Code, as Amended, Other Special
Penal Laws, and for Other Purposes"), which took effect on 31 December 1993.

Constitutional challenge

This is extensively discussed in the case of People vs. Echegaray. (For editing)

Abolition of death penalty

On 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".

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Section 5 of R.A. No. 9346 specifically provides that it shall take effect immediately after its
publication in two national newspapers of general circulation. This is pursuant to Article 2 of
the Civil Code which provides that laws shall take effect after 15 days following the completion of
their publication either in the Official Gazette, or in a newspaper of general circulation in the
Philippines, unless it is otherwise provided.

R.A. No. 9346 was published in Malaya and Manila Times, two national newspapers of general
circulation on 29 June 2006. Accordingly, R.A. No. 9346 took effect on 30 June 2006.[2]

22) 3

As a result of the abolition of the death penalty, existing penalties for death were reduced
to reclusion perpetua, within the possibility of parole. Here are illustrative cases:

The case of 
0 2 11 *
35)  0+*[3] involves an accused who raped his 8-year old
daughter, a deaf-mute. Under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, the imposable penalty
should have been death. With the abolition of the Death Penalty, however, the penalty was reduced
to reclusion perpetua, without the possibility of parole under the Indeterminate Sentence Law.

The case of 
0 2 11 *
3*+[4] involves the rape of a 5-year old child. The
accused 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 capital
punishment under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code. The sentence was also reduced
to reclusion perpetua, without the possibility of parole.

The case of 
[5] involves a rape of a 13-year old girl (who got pregnant), committed
in 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, the Supreme Court reduced the penalty toreclusion
perpetua, without the possibility of parole.

The case of 
0 2 11 *
3) +*6 *)[6] involves the murder of a victim who
suffered 18 stab wounds which were all directed to her chest, heart and lungs. Considering the
existence of the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation and the aggravating
circumstances of dwelling, and taking advantage of superior strength without any mitigating
circumstance, the proper imposable penalty would have been death. However, with the abolition of
the death penalty law, the penalty imposed was reclusion perpetua, without the possibility ofparole.