Santos Lamban, PAHRA
The Philippines was the
Asian country that abolished the death penalty in
. 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...