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A timeline of death penalty in the Philippines

THE imposition of the death penalty in the country has had a repressive history. For the most part (from 1848 to 1987), it was
used to curtail the liberties, freedoms and rights of the Filipino people. In recent history, however, the death penalty was
reimposed as a knee-jerk response to what has largely been seen as rising criminality in the country. The following, with help
from the Mamamayang Tutol sa Bitay-Movement for Restorative Justice, traces the death penalty’s historical roots and context
in Philippine society:
Spanish Period (1521-1898)
2 Spanish colonizers brought with them medieval Europe’s penal system, including executions.
2 Capital punishment during the early Spanish Period took various forms including burning, decapitation, drowning,
flaying, garrote, hanging, shooting, stabbing and others.
2 Capital punishment was enshrined in the 1848 Spanish Codigo Penal and was only imposed on locals who challenged
the established authority of the colonizers.
2 Between 1840-1857, recorded death sentences totaled 1,703 with 46 actual executions.
2 Filipinos who were meted the death penalty include Magat Salamat (1587); the native clergies Gomez, Burgos and
Zamora who were garroted in 1872; and Dr. Jose Rizal, executed on December 30, 1896. All of them are now enshrined as
American Period (1898-1934)
2 The American colonizers, adopting most of the provisions under the Codigo Penal of 1848, retain the death penalty.
2 The Codigo Penal was revised in 1932. Treason, parricide, piracy, kidnapping, murder, rape, and robbery with homicide
were considered capital offenses and warranted the death penalty.
2 The Sedition Law (1901); Brigandage Act (1902); Reconcentration Act (1903); and Flag Law (1907) were enacted to
sanction the use of force, including death, against all nationalist Filipinos.
2 Macario Sakay was one of those sentenced to die for leading a resistance group. He was sentenced to die by public
2 The capital punishment continued to be an integral part of the pacification process of the country, to suppress any
resistance to American authority.
Japanese Occupation (1941-1945)
2 There are no recorded or documented cases of executions through the death penalty during this period simply
because extrajudicial executions were widely practised as part of the pacification of the country.
Post-World War II
2 Espionage is added to the list of capital offenses.
2 The Anti-Subversion Law called for the death penalty for all Communist leaders. However, no executions were
recorded for any captured communist leader.
2 For the period of 1946-1965, 35 people were executed for offenses that the Supreme Court labeled as “crimes of
senseless depravity or extreme criminal perversity.”
The Marcos Years (1965-1986)
2 “Deterrence” became the official justification for the imposition of the death penalty. This is the same justification used
for the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.
2 The number of capital crimes increased to a total of 24. Some crimes which were made punishable by death through
laws and decrees during the Marcos period were subversion, possession of firearms, arson, hijacking, embezzlement, drug-
related offenses, unlawful possession of firearms, illegal fishing and cattle rustling.
2 Jaime Jose, Basilio Pineda, and Edgardo Aquino were executed for the gang rape of movie star Maggie dela Riva in
1972. Despite prohibitions against public executions, the execution of the three was done in full view of the public.
2 Nineteen executions took place during the Pre-Martial Law period. Twelve were executed during Martial Law.
2 Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. was sentenced to die by firing squad for charges of murder, subversion and illegal
possession of firearm in 1977.
2 The last judicial execution under the Marcos years was in October 1976 when Marcelo San Jose was executed by
2 Similar to the reasons for the imposition of capital punishment during the Colonial Periods, the death penalty during the
Marcos Regime was imposed to quell rebellion and social unrest.
President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino (1986-1992)
2 The Death Penalty was “abolished” under the 1987 Constitution.
2 The Philippines became the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.
2 All death sentences were reduced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.

In the above cases. 8353 (Anti-Rape Law of 1997) and Republic Act No. not even by his court-appointed lawyer. http://pcij. The court that tried his case never bothered to ensure that he understood the proceedings against him. the SC was able to rectify its miscarriage of justice. and church groups opposed to the death penalty. she announced that she would resume executions “to sow fear into the hearts of criminals. 25 of these are death mandatory while 21 are death eligible. the ultimate arbiter of a convicted person’s innocence or guilt. President Joseph Ejercito Estrada (1998-2001) 2 Leo Echegaray was executed in February 1999 and was followed by six other executions for various heinous crimes. 2 Since Supreme Court’s ‘judicial errors’ in death-penalty cases THE recent admission by Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban that a “judicial error” could have been committed in the conviction and execution of Leo Echegaray has prompted a hail of criticisms — some even self-serving — addressed at the infallibility of the High Court magistrates. In June 1996. even though the decision meting out death had already become final. including the murder of Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. a qualifying circumstance for him to have been meted the capital punishment. Parazo.2 In 1988. Scheduled for execution on January 30. where both hope to prove themselves innocent. the national crime volume. the bumper year for executions. Taking up his case.3 percent or a total of 82. 2 Even as executions were set to resume on January 2004.538 (from 71. 2003.527 crimes in the previous year). Echagaray was the first to die by lethal injection in 1999 with the reimposition of the death penalty.” 2 Arroyo lifted the de facto moratorium issued by Estrada on December 5. Panganiban also said that the Court has taken measures to review death penalty cases with “painstaking care. With the amendment of Republic Act No. there are now 52 capital offenses. this did not push through by virtue of a Supreme Court decision to reopen the Lara-Licayan case. Roberto Lara and Roderick Licayan were given a 30-day reprieve pending an appeal to reopen their case in light of new evidence. 2 Due to the rise in crimes related to drugs and kidnappings that targeted the Filipino-Chinese community. has proved itself not infallible.” citing the case of Edgar Gallo wherein the Court belatedly reduced the penalty to reclusion perpetua. 2 The Death Penalty Law lists a total of 46 crimes punishable by death. the administration has been issuing reprieves on scheduled executions without actually issuing a moratorium. according to Mamamayang Tutol sa Bitay-Movement for Restorative Justice (MTB-MRJ). the Court affirmed a Quezon City court’s decision to mete the death penalty on Echegaray for the rape of a minor. His sentence was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1997. ironically increased by 15. the SC decided to look at the new evidence: the sworn affidavit of a recently apprehended co-defendant that cleared both Lara and Licayan of the crime for which they were about to be executed. . the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) was able to have the high court reverse itself in 1999. the military started lobbying for the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by the CPP-NPA. deaf. 2 The Ramos administration reimposed the death penalty by virtue of Republic Act No. 7659 in December 1993 to address the rising criminality and incidence of heinous crimes. 8177 mandates that a death sentence shall be carried out through lethal injection. mute and retarded. stepfather or grandfather” of the victim. 2 Estrada issued a de facto moratorium on executions in the face of church-led campaigns to abolish the death penalty and in observance of the Jubilee Year. 30 of which are death mandatory and 22 are death eligible. blind. political. was meted the death sentence in 1995 for rape and attempted homicide. 2004. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-present) 2 Arroyo publicly stated that she is not in favor of executions. But Panganiban was of the opinion that Echegaray’s penalty should have been reduced to reclusion perpetua (equivalent to life imprisonment with eligibility for parole after 30 years) since it was not proven during the trial that he was the “father. a nationwide network of some 150 human rights. 2 Republic Act No. created public impression that heinous crimes were on the rise. instead of abating. But the Echagaray case is not the first time that the SC. sectoral. His multiple disabilities were never mentioned in court. President Fidel Valdez Ramos (1993-1998) 2 A series of high profile crimes during this period. The retrial is ongoing at RTC Branch 272 in Marikina City. At least two recent cases — involving Marlon Parazo (1999) and Roberto Lara and Roderick Licayan (2004) — illustrate this malady. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs act of 2002). 2 In 1999. By a very close vote of 7-6.

were two other kidnappers who were arrested earlier this month. In October 2005. found out that four out of five death inmates have been wrongfully sentenced by the various lower courts. A study conducted by the University of Westminster-based Centre for Capital Punishment Studies observed that in most cases of wrongful sentences. The case of the two men. Although the court did issue any statement following Acosta's arguments during the four-hour hearing. prohibited the meting of the death penalty on those below 18 and above 70 years old).Still. There will be miscarriage of justice if the two are executed. Five other kidnappers remain at large. Joseph Estrada. The lawyer. she said. Mateo. On Sunday. though this would even increase to almost 80 percent early this year. In 2000. Even the prosecutors in the case agreed with Acosta that the case should be reopened. Unfortunately. for instance. the Alyansa ng mga Inmates sa Death Row (Alis-DR) reported that 18 male death row inmates were minors at the time of the alleged crimes for which they were sentenced. Roberto Lara and Roderick Licayan. Persida Rueda-Acosta of the Public Attorney's Office. The most bizarre example of this concerns a woman who received the capital punishment despite incontrovertible medical evidence (from two doctors) that she was severely mentally ill at the commission of the crime. the government's chief prosecutor. The witnesses. an 81-year-old woman received the death sentence. or reduced to reclusion perpetua or other lower penalties out of 907 cases reviewed. 69 were acquitted. as documented by MTB-MRJ. either because documentary evidence does not exist or because the presiding judge is ignorant of the law. suspended capital punishment in 2000. MTB-MRJ cites a study by Dawson and Gregory (2004) which documents the case of a 79-year-old man wrongfully sentenced to death (Republic Act No.022 people are on death row. 651 cases either remanded for further proceedings.513 cases reviewed. pointing out that the accused herself failed to give evidence of her mental condition. Only 270 cases (18 percent) were affirmed by the high court. The death penalty was restored in the Philippines in 1993." said Alfredo Benipayo. 147678-87 (People v. seven of them minors. Among the witnesses.nytimes. almost half (645) were modified (from death penalty to reclusion perpetua or indeterminate sentence). 230 affirmations. said witnesses had exonerated at least one of the two condemned men. Today. Acosta told the court she had witnesses who would prove that Lara is innocent. July 7. is crucial in the death penalty debate here because it tends to reinforce one of the main arguments against capital punishment — that it cannot be carried out in a country where human rights groups claim that the criminal justice system is defective.77 percent on death penalty cases. The SC’s review of capital punishment cases up to January 2006. 2004) the judicial error rate of 71. To be fair. relying on evidence from the same doctors. Seven convicts were executed before the previous president. In an even more bizarre twist to the case. Local and international human rights groups and the European Union have repeatedly asked President Gloria Arroyo to abolish the death penalty. were not permitted to testify during the trial. "There is enough reason to at least hold off the execution. "There is an imperative duty on the part of the court to reopen this case. MTB-MRJ has also documented several instances when judges have sentenced mentally ill persons. there have been instances when it was not able to do so. in the central Philippines. 1. while another 11 were over the age of 70. another criminal action was brought against the woman for property damage she caused at the time of the crime. the man died on death row before the SC could review his case. Said the MTB-MRJ report: The trial judge disregarded the doctors’ testimonies. 2004 MANILA:— The lawyer of two convicts scheduled to be executed this week in the Philippines pleaded with the Supreme Court on Monday to halt their deaths and reopen the case to allow new testimony that could clear Major death penalty case takes twist in Philippines By CARLOS H. five years after sentencing.” The most glaring defects involve the well-documented cases of minors (below 18) and the elderly (above 70) sentenced to death. then we can execute Of the 1. religious and anti-death penalty groups held demonstrations in Manila and in Bacolod City. This time. http://www. "There is reason to hope that the court will heed our appeal for a stay of execution. recently repealed by Congress. CONDE and INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNEJAN. in clear disregard of the law. who were convicted in a 1998 kidnapping." Acosta told the court that witnesses for Lara and Licayan had been prevented from testifying during their trial. http://pcij." Acosta said after the hearing. and 37 were remanded for further proceedings. the Supreme Court has acknowledged in GR No. Lara's hometown. the trial judge found the woman not guilty on grounds of insanity. who are scheduled to die by lethal injection on Friday. “the letter of the law is often ignored. 7659. The figures reported by the chief justice are however slightly lower — 65 acquittals. The Catholic Church has been leading the fight against capital punishment here. "If after this we are certain of their guilt.html 10 Infamous Cases of Wrongful Execution . close to a third (456) were transferred to the Court of Appeals. she said. she said. 27.

Therefore. it would be the first time an official has formally declared a wrongful execution in Texas. but was executed at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville on Feb. Kerry Dixon and Timothy Jordan. Tafero proceeded to shoot both officers and took off in their police car. The murders occurred on Feb. A forensic expert testified that the hair appeared to have come from Jones. which was determined by the case’s primary evidence – the arson investigators’ findings. Jesse Tafero: Jesse Tafero was executed by electric chair in 1990 for murdering two Florida police officers. Willingham maintained his innocence and appealed his conviction for years. One stayed in the car while the other went inside and shot the owner. who claimed to have seen the shooting. The deciding factor and only admissible evidence in Jones’ conviction came down to a strand of hair that was found at the scene of the crime. according to Rhodes. Although there were a number of possible suspects in the murder of Moss. her two children and Walter Rhodes asleep inside. the Texas Forensic Science Commission panel reevaluated the case and determined that state and local arson investigators used “flawed science” when they labeled the fire as arson. The gun was found in Tafero’s waistband. Jones’ attorneys filed petitions for a stay of execution with a district court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and requested that the hair be submitted for DNA testing that was now possible. 2. his partner Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs. the Innocence Project and the Texas Observer filed a lawsuit in 2007 to obtain the strand of hair and submitted it for DNA testing. 3. another well-known drug dealer. 14. Rhodes later admitted that he was responsible for the killings. DNA evidence has exonerated and released 15 death row inmates since 1992. and he was sentenced to death. During the 1993 hearing.There’s no doubt about it – the U. Phillip Black and Donald Irwin. Texas. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund investigated the case after Griffin’s execution and wanted to uncover more witness accounts that could support their claim that Missouri executed an innocent man. The science commission is still investigating the arson ruling. but were arrested after being caught in a roadblock. Claude Jones: Claude Jones was executed in 2000 for the murder of liquor store owner Allen Hilzendager. Moss was believed to have killed Dennis Griffin. laboratory tests and points of origin. but was never contacted by either the defense or prosecution. but until the advent of DNA evidence and improved forensics technology. these individuals have remained guilty as charged. was murdered just six months earlier. in San Jacinto County in 1989. Griffin immediately became a suspect because his older brother Dennis Griffin. Dixon and Jordan testified that Jones was in fact the shooter and they were both spared the death penalty. knew the license plate number of the vehicle and could identify the gunman was all it took to have Griffin arrested. were all linked to the murder. which raised concerns about the legitimacy of his story. experts now believe the Corsicana Fire Department was negligent in their findings. the year of the fire. Fitzgerald admitted to being unsure if Griffin was the man in the car after all. Although advances in fire science and arson investigations have improved since 1991. They were ordered to get out of the car when the officers saw a gun lying on the floor inside the car and. Louis. There were two key witnesses who wavered and a third person whose testimony could have helped Griffin. The arson-murder case fueled much controversy about Willingham’s guilt. but all courts and former Texas Governor George W. Witnesses who were standing across the road couldn’t see the killer. Texas. and if the judge clears Willingham. 16. Tafero and Jacobs claimed that Rhodes was the lone shooter. but only eight inmates have been acknowledged of their possible innocence after execution by the Death Penalty Information Center. but Jones and two other men. Larry Griffin: Larry Griffin was executed in 1995 for a drive-by shooting that killed 19-year-old drug dealer Quintin Moss in St. 4. Tafero had been convicted of robbery and had served seven years of a 25- year sentence before being convicted for murder. but Tafero was still sentenced to death. criminal justice system is not perfect. 1976. but was pinpointed as a violent murderer who shot one victim nine times. 2004. Cameron Todd Willingham: Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for murdering his three young daughters by intentionally setting fire to the family home in Corsicana. Although Jones said he never entered the store. Fitzgerald was a convicted felon who had a long history of run-ins with the law. On Nov. Ruben Cantu: Ruben Cantu was executed in 1993 for the murder-robbery of a San Antonio man at the age of 17. but Rhodes testified against them in exchange for a lighter sentence. Today. Wrongful executions have been happening for hundreds of years. Griffin continued to proclaim his innocence until his execution. Forensic technology was underdeveloped during the 1990 trial and it wasn’t able to match Jones’ DNA with the hair sample.S. when Black and Irwin approached a parked car at a rest stop and found Tafero. 20. 1. In an attempt to prove that Texas executed an innocent man. which was determined to be the hair of the victim. 1989. They determined that the fire was deliberately set with the help of a liquid accelerant due to specific burn patterns. Bush denied Jones and he was executed. before his 2000 execution. And those imperfections become apparent when someone is the innocent victim of the death penalty. Cantu had no previous convictions. Jones and another man were seen pulling into a liquor store in Point Blank. although it was legally registered to Jacobs. a witness account by a white man named Robert Fitzgerald. They disposed of the police car and stole a man’s car. as well . In 2009. 5.

html . Even jailhouse witnesses were bribed into snitching on Spence. but he refused and went inside the store to warn Lopez about the suspicious man. Carlos De Luna: Carlos De Luna was executed in 1989 for the 1983 stabbing of Wanda Lopez. they found De Luna not far from the station. Joseph O’Dell: Joseph O’Dell was executed in 1997 for raping and murdering Helen Schartner. The same two arresting officers were released from the department shortly after for using violence in other cases. The man asked Aguirre for a ride to a nightclub. As Baker approached the gas station. of murdering his wife and daughter. The second witness. Spence was convicted of raping. The police investigation and physical evidence used to convict Evans was weak. http://www. As the original allegations go. torturing and murdering two 17-year-old girls and murdering an 18-year-old boy. One witness believed that the police department was out to get Jones because he had assaulted an officer once. but he lived to testify. It was confirmed that Evans’ daughter had been killed by Christie. O’Dell was convicted on the basis of blood evidence and a jailhouse snitch. Lori Urs. but later recanted. an anti-death penalty advocate and former wife to O’Dell. he said that he was forced to say he did it during hours of intimidating police interrogation. the 4th Circuit of the U. Deeb was charged and sentenced to death. 9. other potential suspects and witness testimonies in support of Jones’ exoneration. there was no physical evidence that linked Cantu to the crime. However. 6. Despite repeated appeals.S. De Luna was executed. David Spence: David Spence was executed in 1997 for murdering three teenagers in 1982 in Waco. but later received a re-trial and was acquitted. In addition. who allegedly committed the murder-robbery with Cantu. Despite much effort and several appeals. Evans maintained his innocence and repeatedly accused his neighbor. O’Dell requested that the state submit other pieces of evidence for DNA testing. a Texas convenience store clerk. Timothy Evans: Timothy Evans was sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of his daughter in 1949 at their home in Notting Hill. pulled into the station and heard bangs on the station’s window and saw a man struggling with a woman. remained silent and signed a sworn affidavit allowing his accomplice to be falsely accused. but he was refused. Christie was found to be a serial killer who was responsible for murdering several women at his residence. the man came back into the store and robbed her. including blood samples and fingerprints that could have helped De Luna.criminaljusticedegreesguide. court opinions and refusal of DNA testing. Spence was hired by convenience store owner Muneer Deeb to kill one girl and he ended up killing these three teens by Juan Moreno offered his testimony to police and identified Cantu as the shooter. Despite weak evidential support and jail mate testimonies. Despite Hernandez’s trouble with the law and repeated confessions to the murder. John Christie. prosecutors used bite marks that were found on one of the girl’s body and matched it to Spence’s teeth. the murderer threatened him and took off. where they threatened his life and made him play Russian roulette. He was shirtless and shoeless in a puddle of water and screamed. Although Jones confessed 12 hours after the murder. Cantu maintained his innocence until his execution and claimed that he had been framed in this capital murder case. Leo Jones: Leo Jones was executed in 1998 for murdering a police officer in Florida. admitting that he said Cantu out of influence and fear of authorities. This case of injustice had a strong influence in the UK’s decision to abolish capital punishment. Aguirre left and Lopez called the police to describe the man. Before the murder- robbery. When police searched the area. Federal District Court and the Supreme Court. his co-defendant David Garza. After Evans’ trial and execution. Kevan Baker. 10. the last of the DNA evidence from O’Dell’s case was burned in March 2000 and the appeals were laid to rest. “Don’t shoot! You got me!” Both Aguirre and Baker confirmed De Luna was the man at the station. and Evans was granted a posthumous pardon. 8. Spence was executed. London. There were massive campaigns to overturn Evans’ conviction and an official inquiry was conducted 16 years later. Jones was also denied another method of execution and was killed by the electric chair. George Aguirre was filling up at the gas station where the crime occurred. After his execution. 7. Although there was no clear physical evidence to link Spence to the crime. Little to no physical evidence was collected at the crime scene. the sentencing stood as is. Authoritative sources even had serious doubt about Spence’s guilt. De Luna maintained his innocence and repeated that Carlos Hernandez was the actual killer. Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and reinstated his death sentence. Although the case had a compelling witness testimony. as shot the only eyewitness nine times with a rifle. There were two eyewitnesses who played a key role in the conviction of De Luna. O’Dell represented himself and continued to proclaim his innocence in various unsuccessful appeals to the Virginia Supreme Court. As she was on the phone with a dispatcher. when he saw a man standing outside the store slide a knife with the blade exposed into his pocket and enter. sought to further investigate the case and exonerate O’Dell based on mistaken blood matches.