Capital punishment in the Philippines

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

Capital punishment in the Philippines has a varied history and was suspended on June 24, 2006—the second time since 1987.

Filipinos have mixed opinions about the death penalty, with many opposing it on religious and humanitarian grounds, while advocates see it as a way of deterring crimes.

Spanish and American periods

A 1901 execution at the Old Bilibid Prison, Manila, Philippines

During Spanish colonial rule, the most common methods of execution were death by firing squad (especially for treason/military crimes, usually reserved for independence fighters) and garrotte (a notable case would be the Gomburza). Death by hanging was another popular method.

A prominent example is the national hero, José Rizal, who was executed by firing squad on the morning of December 30, 1896, in the park that now bears his name.[1]

In 1926, the electric chair (Spanish: silla eléctrica; Filipino: silya eléktrika) was introduced by the United States' colonial Insular Government, making the Philippines the only other country to employ this method. The last colonial-era execution took place under Governor-General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. in February 1932. There were no executions under Manuel L. Quezon, the first President of the Commonwealth.[2]


The capital crimes after regaining full sovereignty in July 1946 were murder, rape and treason. However, no executions took place until April 1950,[3] when Julio Gullien, executed for attempting to assassinate President Manuel Roxas;.[4] Other notable cases includes Marciál "Baby" Ama, electrocuted at the age of 16 on October 4, 1961, for murders committed while in prison for lesser charges.[5] Ama notably became the subject of the popular 1976 film, Bitayin si... Baby Ama! (Execute Baby Ama!).[6]

Another famous case was that of former powerful Governor of Negros Occidental Rafael Lacson and 22 of his allies, condemned to die in August 1954 for the murder of a political opponent.[7] Ultimately, Lacson was never executed.

In total, 51 people were electrocuted up to 1961. Execution numbers climbed under President Ferdinand Marcos, who was ironically himself sentenced to death in 1939 for the murder of Julio Nalundasan--the political rival of his father, Mariano; the young Ferdinand was acquitted on appeal. A notorious triple execution took place in May 1972, when Jaime José, Basilio Pineda and Edgardo Aquino were electrocuted for the 1967 abduction and gang-rape of young actress Maggie dela Riva. The state ordered that the executions be broadcast on national television.[8]

Under the Marcos regime, drug trafficking also became punishable by death by firing squad, such as the case with Lim Seng, whose execution in December 1972 was also ordered broadcast on national television. Future President and then Chief of the Philippine Constabulary Gen. Fidel V. Ramos was present at the execution.[9]

The electric chair was used until 1976, when execution by firing squad eventually replaced it as the sole method of execution. Under Marcos' 20-year authoritarian rule, however, countless more people were summarily executed, tortured or simply disappeared for opposition to his rule.[neutrality is disputed]

After Marcos was deposed in 1986, the newly drafted 1987 Constitution prohibited the death penalty but allowed the Congress to reinstate it "hereafter" for "heinous crimes"; making the Philippines the first Asian country to abolish capital punishment.

Reinstatement and moratorium

President Fidel V. Ramos promised during his campaign that he would support the re-introduction of the death penalty in response to increasing crime rates. The new law, drafted by Ramos, restored capital punishment by defining "heinous crimes" as everything from murder to stealing a car. This law provided the use of the electric chair until the gas chamber (chosen by the government to replace electrocution) could be installed.

Executions resumed in 1999, starting with Leo Echegaray, who was put to death by lethal injection under Ramos' successor, Joseph Estrada, marking the first execution after the reinstatement of the death penalty. The next execution saw an embarrassing mishap when President Estrada decided to grant a last-minute reprieve, but failed to get through to the prison authorities in time to stop the execution. Following on a personal appeal by his spiritual advisor, Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Estrada called a moratorium in 2000 to honor the bimillenial anniversary of Christ's birth.[10] Executions were resumed a year later.

Estrada's successor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was a vocal opponent of the death penalty and also approved a moratorium, but later permitted executions and denied pardons.

Second suspension

An old embarkation card (erroneously) warning visitors of the death penalty for drug trafficking. The caveat has since been removed from subsequent versions.

On 15 April 2006, the sentences of 1,230 death row inmates were commuted to life imprisonment, in what Amnesty International believes to be the "largest ever commutation of death sentences".[11]

Capital punishment was again suspended via Republic Act No. 9346, which was signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on 24 June 2006. The bill followed a vote held in Congress earlier that month which overwhelmingly supported the abolition of the practise.[12] The penalties of life imprisonment and reclusion perpetua (detention of indefinite length, usually for at least 30 years) replaced the death penalty.[13] Critics of Arroyo's initiative called it a political move meant to placate the Roman Catholic Church, some sectors of which were increasingly vocal in their opposition to her rule.


President Arroyo controversially pardoned many prisoners during her presidency, including a 2009 pardon for all remaining felons convicted for the 1983 assassination of former Senator and opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr..[14]

Support for reintroduction of capital punishment

Since the death penalty's suspension in 2006, there have been continued public and media calls for its reintroduction, particularly prompted by high-profile murder cases.[citation needed]

During the 2016 election, presidential candidate and frontrunner, Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte, campaigned to restore the death penalty in the Philippines.[15][16][17] During the "Yes or No" segment of the second presidential debate on March 20, 2016, Duterte and Senator Grace Poe were the only candidates who said "Yes" when asked about the restoration of the death penalty in the country, favoring the decision.[18] Duterte, who won the election in May 2016, has stated his support for public execution by hanging for criminals convicted of "heinous crimes", including but not limited to drug-related crimes, rape, robbery, motor vehicle theft and corruption,[19] while Poe has stated that the capital punishment should apply to criminals convicted of "drugs and multiple crimes where involved people can no longer be rehabilitated."[20]


The Philippines was the only country aside from the United States that used the electric chair, due to its being introduced during the US colonial period. Until its first abolition in 1987, the country reverted to using death by firing squad.

After re-introduction of the death penalty in 1993, the country switched to lethal injection as its sole method of execution.


  1. McLean, John (2003-12-21). "Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | Philippines 'restores' death penalty". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-02-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. [1] Archived July 9, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Reading Eagle - Google News Archive Search
  4. [2][dead link]
  5. "History of Public Enemy". Retrieved 2014-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Bitayin si... Baby Ama! (1976) Rudy 'Daboy' Fernandez / FULL MOViE". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. iPad iPhone Android TIME TV Populist The Page (1954-09-06). "THE PHILIPPINES: Justice for the Governor". TIME. Retrieved 2014-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Lim Seng's execution -, Philippine News for Filipinos". 2008-12-29. Retrieved 2014-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Download Documents | Amnesty International". Archived from the original on 2009-02-17. Retrieved 2014-02-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Amnesty International Philippinesl, April 19, 2006 Philippines: Largest ever commutation of death sentences
  12. Jansen, Jamie. June 6, 2006 Philippines Congress votes to end capital punishment, The Jurist
  13. Sun Star Cebu. 25 June 2006. Arroyo kills death law
  14. "10 Aquino-Galman convicts free finally -, Philippine News for Filipinos". Retrieved 2014-02-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Lacorte, Germelina (December 28, 2015). "Duterte wants death penalty back". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 16, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Nawal, Allan; Manlupig, Karlos (June 16, 2015). "Duterte says he would revive death penalty". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 16, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Nawal, Allan (August 16, 2015). "Duterte wants to restore death penalty for plunder". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved May 16, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Geronimo, Gee Y. (March 20, 2016). "Cebu debate: Duterte, Poe favor return of death penalty". Rappler. Retrieved May 16, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Andolong, Ina (May 16, 2016). "Duterte wants to restore death penalty by hanging". CNN Philippines. Retrieved May 16, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Poe defends stand on death penalty". The Philippine Star. March 21, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links