Background of the Study: The Practice of Capital Punishment in the Philippines In the Philippines, the practice of capital punishment predates recorded history (See Chart 1), and only with the accession of Mrs. Corazon Aquino to presidential office, and the drafting of the new Constitution, was capital punishment abolished in 1987. The Aquino government was responsible for restoring various democratic institutions, including the Congress once regulated by Marcos. In 1993, the Philippine government under the Ramos administration reinstated capital punishment through the Republic Act (RA) 7659. The law argued that certain criminals deserve to die because of their horrendous acts; such crimes are considered so evil that killing the perpetrators is the only just way to deal with it. Accordingly, RA 7659 included thirteen classes of crime, but was later expanded to 46 capital offenses (Chan Robles [on-line], retrieved 2002). As of June 2002, the mandate was responsible in bringing 1,007 (including women, minors, and aged) inmates to death row at the New Bilibid Prison and the Correctional Institution for Women in Manila (FLAG 2002). The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) estimated that the numbers were higher since inmates sentenced from the provincial prisons are still waiting to be transferred to the death row in the capital. FLAG further stated that the majority of the prisoners are poor and barely educated. Sixty percent of them earned less than the government mandated minimum wage prior to conviction. Eighty-six had had their death sentences confirmed, mostly for rape (crimes involving rape, rape of a minor, incestuous rape, and other aggravated forms of the crime). The death penalty law allows two years and six months after the inmate's sentence is confirmed. The law maintains death only by lethal injection.
This case study of the Philippines is an example of how modern punishment is created. Theoretically, the presence of capital punishment can be understood by the instrumental nature of the political state in protecting the capitalist class. Nevertheless, the Philippine experience shows a disaggregated view of the state in explaining the wavering support that evolved under various political administrations after Marcos. Such focus reveals that the post-Marcos government was not a state that was molded primarily by governing elites. Rather, the historic strength in bringing capital punishment back to law was based in large measure on the way the state preemptively organized societal interests, and the display of power by active agents who had the capacity and resources to influence the general public. The capacity of political groups to influence the state is contingent on specific empirical conditions. The reorganization of the government towards democracy, the prospect of economic growth, the public clamor for more security and order, and the reintroduction of a more liberal world view in conducting politics, had cumulatively shaped the development of civil society. Although in the Philippines attempts were made to blur class lines on issues such as capital punishment, the level of political action and influence simply depends on the relative control of those who have property. Since property is a political resource, often the propertied get their way in politics. The rise of the middle class and its alliances with the state and other select social groups creates more power favoring one side of the issue over the other. The events that reinstated capital punishment, and executed Leo Echagaray, show that the state is not purely autonomous in conducting the interest of capital class. Capital punishment was reinstated because of the strong campaigns from the conservative sectors of the society with their alliance to individuals with political power and media that had more power to manipulate public perception of the issue. The overzealous coverage of the media, for example, on highly profiled crimes such...
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