PHL appeals to Middle East, China for clemency for Filipinos under death sentences

December 11, 2010 3:46 am 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Dec. 10 — The Philippines on Friday renewed its appeal for clemency or moratorium in the implementation of death sentence to Filipinos offenders abroad, specifically in the Middle East and China.

The appeal, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, (DFA) trumpeted the Philippines’ active role in the worldwide campaign for the abolition of capital punishment or a moratorium on its implementation.

“This is an important advocacy, as capital punishment remains part of the penal laws in many countries in the Americas, Africa and Asia,” DFA said in a statement timed with the worldwide observance of Human Rights Day on Friday.

”In this respect, we have made constant appeals for clemency for Filipinos who have been meted the death penalty overseas, particularly in the Middle East, China and in other countries,” DFA said.

There are more than a hundred Filipinos sentenced to death and are in prison in China, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Kuwait, and the United States, mainly on drugs-related crimes.

The abolition of the death penalty in the Philippines in 2006 and the commutation of death sentences since 2001 reflect the “clear and well-established” commitment of the Philippine government to the dignity of human life and its full respect for human rights, DFA said.

Even before the passage of Republic Act 9346 in June 2006, the Philippines has not carried out the death penalty since 2001. The death sentences of 1,230 prisoners have been commuted to life.

Timed with the observance, President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday morning ordered the Department of Justice to immediately withdraw charges of illegal possession of explosives and ammunition against the so-called “Morong 43” group for humanitarian reasons.

Detained since February this year, they portray themselves as health workers but were rounded up on suspicion of being members of the internationally-listed terrorist group, the New People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

In ordering the release, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said: “This represents the President’s commitment to respect human rights and to uphold the rule of law, a commitment that will be consistent regardless of the parties’ political affiliations.”

Reacting to the President’s move, Undersecretary Alexander Padilla, a presidential adviser on the peace process with the secessionist Left, said it was “a good confidence-building measure” in the resumed negotiations with the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the CPP.

A number of Philippine programs for human rights promotion are being assisted in part by the European Union (EU), which paid tribute to human rights defenders in a statement by its Brussels-based High Representative (Foreign Minister) Catherine Ashton.

Apart from direct support to human rights defenders, the EU has also funded activities in the area of election monitoring, violence against women and children, trafficking in human beings, indigenous communities, peace-building activities and (through the EPJUST program) extra-legal killings and enforced disappearances.

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald said that “through these grants the EU has been able to strengthen the capacities of government agencies as well as civil society in promoting and protecting human rights and democratic reforms, and in facilitating the peaceful resolution of resource-related conflicts.”

The Ambassador said that human rights was an area of mutual interest and importance for the Philippines and the EU in the bilateral relations.

The EU Delegation in Manila said that “the issue figured prominently in the recently concluded negotiations on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which the EU and the Philippines will sign in the near future.”

MacDonald said human rights was also included as a priority in the recently adopted EU-Philippines Multi-annual Indicative Program, “which gives the strategic priorities for our development cooperation in the coming years.”

The Philippines has also been an early strong advocate and staunch supporter of the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights and a leading voice for the release of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi.

”And now that this icon of freedom (Suu Kyi) has been released, we have urged the Myanmar Government to release the 2,100 other prisoners of conscience in said country,” DFA said. (PNA) RMA/GJB

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