Looking back: Death penalty in the Philippines

This is the fourth installment of Tapat New’s Independence Day series!

Duterte wants death penalty, Robredo doesn’t.

While the two highest leaders of state gather support for their opposing positions, the public is left to bicker among themselves on its implications. With the capital punishment absent in our nation for a long while now, most of its details are forgotten.

What really is death penalty?

Back during the Spanish period, public executions were performed through firing squad. Filipinos soldiers were even chosen to fire the guns at their fellowmen,   with Spanish soldiers behind them ready to shoot them should they resist pulling the trigger. Usually, traitors to Spain and rebellious men were subjected to capital punishment, such as Jose Rizal. The guillotine and garrote were also used, but not all the time.

Graphic by: Giyan Martinez
Graphic by: Giyan Martinez

When the Americans took over, they taught the Filipinos to use the electric chair, making the Philippines the only country in the world at the time to use it other than America. 51 persons were convicted using this method until firing squad was brought back again in 1976, under President Marcos.

After the Marcos dictatorship, the 1986 Freedom Constitution was created abolishing the death penalty. Philippines was the first in Asia to do so.However, the crime rate went up under President Fidel Ramos’ administration and death penalty was restored in 1992, then through lethal injection. It was not until 1999 when the first execution was made with convict LeoEchegaray, accused of raping his 10-year old stepdaughter by a former wife.

Then under the Arroyo administration, death penalty was abolished again in 2006, moving all prisoners in the death row to be sentenced for life imprisonment only.

The incoming Duterte administration sees death penalty as an asset in defeating drug lords and amassing crime rate. Robredo, a Human Rights lawyer and pro-life advocate, leaves the matter entirely to the hands of the Legislative, and their decision will not change her opinion on death penalty.

Alarmingly, many lawmakers are showing their support in bringing back the death penalty in the Philippines, but with a less-than stellar judicial system, and with powerful people having connections and who can maneuver judgments in their favor, there is a huge risk of the death penalty being applied to those who are innocent and oppressed. (Luke Godoy)


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