BULLETIN: GMA ENDS MORATORIUM; PRESIDENT'S MOST DIFFICULT DECISION

MANILA, December 8, 2003  (BULLETIN) Willie N. Ng - AFTER playing the role of the obedient daughter to Holy Mother the Church for nearly three years, President Arroyo has snipped off some apron strings, and in the matter of capital punishment, become her own woman. As expected, the church and its occasional allies, the leftists, had their day condemning the President’s lifting of the three-year moratorium on lethal injections. Two kidnappers will get theirs next month. On the other hand, we don’t see any popular unrest. Anyone who is capable of feeling how it is to have a loved one snatched, will agree with the ending of the moratorium.

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The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines accused her of appeasing the FilipinoChinese community, angry over the recent spate of kidnappings, in order to win its support for the elections next May. It was an unChristian swipe from the men of God against the President. In their agitation, the bishops, resorting to racism for which the church was known for from way back, forgot that while Chinese were the main targets of kidnappers, Filipinos also were kidnapped. Chinese, however, remain the victims of choice.

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Not so long ago, a Chineselooking Filipino, son of a wealthy family in Mindanao and working in a Manila bank, was snatched while driving his Corolla in Chinatown. Unlike the pros who would study a prospect’s bank account before acting, this group grabbed their victim just because he looked like a Chinese. He was kept for 11 hours in a van. It took him that long to convince his captors that “I am not a Chinese.” He was lucky. Convinced finally that he was not a Chinese, they released him. He quit his bank job and to this day, refuses to venture to the big city. He should see a plastic surgeon.

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The President, no doubt, was influenced by the rash of kidnappings where one Chinese woman was killed and where two Chinese children were taken. The bishops should ask themselves: Would the President have acted differently if these three were native Filipinos with not one drop of Chinese blood? Would she have kept the moratorium? This racist attack may, hopefully, encourage Chinese Catholics to return to Buddhism, a religion recognized for its benign outlook, gentleness, and universal brotherhood.

Anyway, vox populi, vox Dei. Let the Social Weather Station and the Pulse Asia take the public pulse on the issue of capital punishment.

A most difficult decision for President Arroyo By Ignacio R. Bunye

AFTER agonizing for weeks on end, the President announced Friday that she was no longer standing in the way of the implementation of the death penalty. Certainly, this is one of the most difficult decisions she has had to make and this was arrived at after much prayer and contemplation. A devout Catholic, the President had been personally against the death penalty on moral grounds. But the President cited higher national interest in view of prevailing extraordinary circumstances. We can only appeal for understanding from those who hold contrary views and pray that the desired results of her decision would somehow be achieved.

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According to Bureau of Correction Records, 144 death sentences have already been affirmed by the Supreme Court. Out of these, 32 have been issued warrants of execution. Even if we knew the identities of the convicts scheduled for execution, we would technically be barred from making them public at this time. Article 82 of the Revised Penal Code provides for the time and manner of notification and execution of the sentence. This provision is reiterated verbatim in the Amended Rules and Regulations to Implement R.A. 8177 (the Lethal Injection Law).

We quote applicable provisions hereunder: The court shall designate a working day for the execution, but not the hour thereof; and such designation shall not be communicated to the offender before sunrise of the said day, and the execution shall not take place until after the expiration of at least eight hours following the notification, but before sunset. Thus, notification to the convict can only be done on the same day. Not a day earlier. Certainly, not weeks or a month earlier.

The rules also provide that: In the execution of the death penalty, the death convict shall be spared from unnecessary anxiety or distress. The implementing rules quoted above were adopted on October 20, 1998 during the time of then Justice Secretary Serafin Cuevas. The rules took effect fifteen days after publication in a newspaper of general circulation. In the case of the first convict subjected to lethal injection, this rule was apparently blatantly ignored. For weeks prior to the execution, Leo Echegarray had been the focus of media attention.

Incidentally, the implementing rules also provide: Television, radio, and other interviews by media of a death convict shall not be allowed.

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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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