DRUG CONVICTS ALSO FACE DEATH; 2 KIDNAPPERS BY LETHAL INJECTION IN JANUARY

MANILA, December 8, 2003  (BULLETIN) By Ferdie J. Maglalang - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wants an immediate and unconditional resumption of death executions through lethal injection only of convicted kidnappers and drug traffickers, Malacaņang said yesterday, in an attempt to sow fear among criminal syndicates preying on hapless people.

Earlier, it was announced that only convicted kidnappers are to be executed through lethal injection. This time, convicted highprofile drug traffickers are also to be executed.

Presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said the President is giving the green light to the authorities to send people convicted of kidnapping and high-profile drug cases to the lethal-injection chamber as scheduled even if her decision may run contrary to her Catholic faith.

"Definitely, only on these two high-profile cases, the capital punishment will be implemented. There are no 'ifs' and 'buts' about it, when it comes to these two cases," he said in a radio interview, referring to heinous crimes of kidnapping for ransom and illegal drug trafficking, punishable by death.

Bunye issued the statement to clarify the President's earlier announcement of the lifting of the two-year-old moratorium on death penalty through lethal injection. Consequently, she allowed the execution of two convicted kidnappers scheduled in the last week of January next year.

According to Bunye, he was told by Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo that the President's decision is limited only to crimes of kidnapping and illegal drug trafficking and does not include "private offenses like rape',' which the latter claimed, could be possibly given a presidential reprieve.

"I have talked with Secretary Romulo a few minutes ago, and he mentioned that kidnapping and high profile drug cases are included (in the death executions). What is excluded are private offenses like rape," he said.

Meanwhile, the President said her sudden change of mind to executions of convicted kidnappers and drug traffickers is "an execution," following a mounting clamor by the victims' families and relatives to resume the implementation of the country's death penalty law.

"I don't believe in the death penalty, but because kidnapping is prevalent nowadays, we have to make an exception)," she said in a television interview at the Malacaņang gardens last Saturday night.

Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Chairman Michael Defensor, also the President's concurrent campaign spokesperson, said Mrs. Arroyo's decision was not meant to win the support - and the votes - of the influential Filipino and Chinese communities.

"She (the President) said she saw how kidnapping and illegal drugs have grown, and she will not stand in the way of these executions," he said, adding that those DeathRow convicts have been given due process guaranteed to them under the law.

Bunye also said that the government is intensifying "police visibility" in crowded areas as it has begun the deployment of about 10,000 men from the Philippine National Police (PNP) to put more teeth to the intensified campaign against kidnapping.

"This high police visibility is one of the effective measures to lessen or deter the commission of kidnapping and other crimes, like bank robberies and other related crimes," he said.

Persons convicted by kidnapping and high profile drug cases and meted the death penalty will definitely get it, Malacaņang said.

"No ifs or buts about it on these two cases," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said this morning in a radio interview after a talk with Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo.

Excluded are private offenses like rape, Bunye said.

"The President is duty-bound to serve the public interest, which lies in according the people the option of just retribution for their own peace of mind," Bunye said yesterday in an official statement.

"Some may consider the death penalty too harsh but it is what is prescribed in the law, which in turn reflects the sentiments of the silent majority," Bunye added.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo lifted Friday the moratorium on the execution of death convicts as a deterrent to the commission of heinous crimes and to give justice to the victims. Many quarters, notably the Church, voiced their objections.

"I shall no longer stand in the way of executions scheduled by the courts for January 2004," the President said Friday, stressing she cannot turn her back against the cry for just retribution under the law.

Bunye also said 10,000 men from the Philippine National Police have been mobilized to add more teeth to the intensified campaign against kidnapping.

That is part of the strengthening of the criminal justice system, Bunye said.

One of the pillars of the criminal justice system is law enforcement and high police visibility is one of the effective means to lessen or deter kidnapping and other crimes like bank robberies, Bunye explained.

High police visibility is one of the three measures adapted by the government to stamp out high profile crimes.

The others are to set up more checkpoints to curb the movement of criminals and bringing in the military to beef up the police in crime-prone areas.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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