President urged: Order mass death sentence commutation

Senator Aquilino Pimentel called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday -- World Anti-Death-Penalty Day -- to make known her real stand on death penalty by issuing an executive order commuting the sentences of all death-row inmates.

Ms Macapagal-Arroyo, a devout Catholic, has suspended implementation of the death penalty since coming to power in January 2001. Anti-crime groups have been calling on her to implement the death penalty as a crime deterrent.

Pimentel said at a forum in the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University: "Let me suggest that a petition be signed to request the President to issue an executive order ... commuting all death sentences of death-row convicts so that once and for all the people will know where she really stands on the issue."

Pimentel and Senator Francis Pangilinan, head of the Senate justice and human rights committee, at the forum supported renewed efforts of the Catholic Church and various groups to abolish the death penalty. Both said the penalty was not only inhuman but also an "outmoded" method that through the years had not deterred crime.

"Do we honestly feel that fewer crimes are being committed now that we have the death penalty?" Pangilinan said. "There is simply no cause-and-effect relation with respect to the two."

Pimentel said that a "short cut" to the abolition of death penalty lay in the hands of the President, who could be convinced "that it is in the best interest of the nation that we put an end to execution of death convicts."

A group called Coalition Against Death Penalty said there were about 1,000 death row inmates. It said 143 were awaiting execution, with their sentences affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Pimentel said Ms Macapagal "started on the right foot" by deferring their execution. He added: "If she wobbles on her previous decision not to allow the execution ... and if she wants to be consistent as to be credible in her tough stand on law and order, she will have to allow the execution of 1,000 death convicts."


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