Philippine Congress Votes to End Death Penalty

MANILA, Philippines, JUNE 7, 2006 ( Philippine President Gloria Arroyo congratulated Congress for passing a bill abolishing the death penalty and assured the public that the move “does not signal a weakness on crime.”

Her statement came today after members of Congress approved a law abolishing the “heinous crimes” element in a 1994 law, that is, capital punishment for some crimes including kidnapping, murder and drug trafficking.

Arroyo said she would soon sign the bill into law. She added: “Make no mistake about it: The abolition of the death penalty will be complemented by a stricter and sterner enforcement of the law on all fronts.”

There are 1,200 people on death row in the country, including at least 11 terrorists linked to al-Qaida, according to AsiaNews. When the bill passes into law, pending sentences will automatically be commuted to life in prison.

The Filipino government executed seven people between 1999 and 2000, but shortly afterward, it declared a moratorium on executions, prompted to do so by the Catholic Church and the European Union.