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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 penaltys historical roots and context in Philippine

Spanish Period (1521-1898)
Spanish colonizers brought with them medieval Europes penal system, including executions.
Capital punishment during the early Spanish Period took various forms including burning, decapitation,
drowning, flaying, garrote, hanging, shooting, stabbing and others.
Capital punishment was enshrined in the 1848 Spanish Codigo Penal and was only imposed on locals who
challenged the established authority of the colonizers.
Between 1840-1857, recorded death sentences totaled 1,703 with 46 actual executions.
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 heroes.

American Period (1898-1934)
The American colonizers, adopting most of the provisions under the Codigo Penal of 1848, retain the
death penalty.
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.
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.
Macario Sakay was one of those sentenced to die for leading a resistance group. He was sentenced to die
by public hanging.
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)
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
Espionage is added to the list of capital offenses.
The Anti-Subversion Law called for the death penalty for all Communist leaders. However, no executions
were recorded for any captured communist leader.
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)
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.
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
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.
Nineteen executions took place during the Pre-Martial Law period. Twelve were executed during Martial
Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. was sentenced to die by firing squad for charges of murder, subversion and
illegal possession of firearm in 1977.
The last judicial execution under the Marcos years was in October 1976 when Marcelo San Jose was
executed by electrocution.
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)
The Death Penalty was abolished under the 1987 Constitution.
The Philippines became the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.
All death sentences were reduced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.
In 1988, the military started lobbying for the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by the

President Fidel Valdez Ramos (1993-1998)
A series of high profile crimes during this period, including the murder of Eileen Sarmenta and Allan
Gomez, created public impression that heinous crimes were on the rise.
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.
The Death Penalty Law lists a total of 46 crimes punishable by death; 25 of these are death mandatory
while 21 are death eligible.
Republic Act No. 8177 mandates that a death sentence shall be carried out through lethal injection.

President Joseph Ejercito Estrada (1998-2001)
Leo Echegaray was executed in February 1999 and was followed by six other executions for various
heinous crimes.
In 1999, the bumper year for executions, the national crime volume, instead of abating, ironically
increased by 15.3 percent or a total of 82,538 (from 71,527 crimes in the previous year).
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.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-present)
Arroyo publicly stated that she is not in favor of executions.
Due to the rise in crimes related to drugs and kidnappings that targeted the Filipino-Chinese community,
she announced that she would resume executions to sow fear into the hearts of criminals.
Arroyo lifted the de facto moratorium issued by Estrada on December 5, 2003.
Even as executions were set to resume on January 2004, this did not push through by virtue of a Supreme
Court decision to reopen the Lara-Licayan case.
Since then, the administration has been issuing reprieves on scheduled executions without actually issuing
a moratorium.
With the amendment of Republic Act No. 8353 (Anti-Rape Law of 1997) andRepublic Act No.
9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs act of 2002), there are now 52 capital offenses, 30 of which are
death mandatory and 22 are death eligible.