Arroyo scraps death penalty in the Philippines

Arroyo scraps death penalty in the Philippines

MANILA, June 24 Kyodo

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Saturday measures repealing the death penalty, provoking mixed reactions from pro- and anti-capital punishment groups.

”Today, in signing the abolition of the death penalty, we celebrate life in the most meaningful way,” Arroyo said in a speech at a signing ceremony at the Malacanang presidential palace.

Arroyo said Republic Act 9346, the act abolishing the death penalty in the Philippines, ends what she said as an ”era of retributive justice and paves the way for restorative justice.”

Arroyo assured death penalty advocates the lifting of capital punishment would not lead to more crimes in the country, and that she would devote more funds to crime prevention and control.

”We have taken a strong hand against the threats to the high moral imperatives dictated by God to walk away from capital punishment,” she said.

Arroyo, who is to visit the Vatican next week, said she will personally relay to Pope Benedict XVI the abolition of the death penalty.

”I shall tell him that we have acted in the name of life for a world of peace and harmony,” she said.

”I allay the concerns of those who think that the abolition of the death penalty opens the floodgates to heinous acts. We shall continue to devote the increasing weight of our resources to the prevention and control of serious crimes rather than take the lives of those who commit them,” she said.

She called on the criminal justice system, including law enforcers, prosecutors, judges, jailers and local communities, ”to take stock of the responsibility of sharpening law and justice for all.”

Presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio said RA 9346 will apply retroactively and will take effect upon publication in nationally circulated newspapers.

Papal Nuncio Fernando Filoni hailed Arroyo’s decision to scrap the death penalty, saying Arroyo’s act is an ”important step” for the Philippines in affirming its ”culture of life.”

Last April, Arroyo commuted the death sentences of more than 1,000 convicts.

Most Filipinos are Roman Catholics, and the church is opposed to capital punishment. But the families of victims of heinous crimes have endorsed the death penalty, arguing it deters crime.

Arroyo, a devout Roman Catholic, objects to capital punishment on moral and practical grounds.

Many crime victims, several of them members of the rich Filipino-Chinese community, condemned Arroyo’s decision to scrap the death penalty.

They said Arroyo’s action is untimely because kidnapping once again appears to be on the rise.

”Our reaction is one of utter disappointment,” said Emil Armas, a member of a civic organization monitoring kidnap-for-ransom cases.

Armas’ son was a victim of kidnapping last year.

In the first three months of this year, Armas claims his group monitored 14 kidnap-for-ransom cases in the metropolis, involving 19 victims. Many of the victims paid millions of pesos in ransom, he said.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution abolished the death penalty, but a law that took effect in January 1994 restored it for 13 ”heinous crimes,” including rape, murder and kidnapping.

At least seven convicts have been executed by lethal injection since capital punishment was restored.

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