President Gloria Arroyo yesterday doused calls by the ethnic Chinese community to restore the death penalty in the Philippines to curb rampant kidnappings, saying it would not solve the problem by itself.
Hundreds of ethnic Chinese took to the streets on Sunday, turning the funeral of kidnap victim Betti Sy, a Coca-Cola finance manager, into a street protest that called for firmer government efforts including capital punishment to rein in kidnap gangs.
Arroyo said in a statement that she would "continue to consult with Congressional leaders" as well as with the influential Roman Catholic Church.
Church leaders had prevailed on her more than two years ago to suspend executions.
"I am resolved to take all means to deter the commission of heinous crimes and strengthen criminal justice," the president said.
"But I must emphasize that the death penalty is not the end-all to heinous crime. The entire criminal justice system involving the police, the prosecution, the courts, the correctional system and community must be able to team up to prevent, deter and solve heinous crimes."
According to independently-gathered statistics, kidnappings for ransom, usually targeting affluent Chinese-Filipinos, were at a 10-year high in the Philippines with a victim snatched on average every three days.
Political observers say Arroyo is wary of locking horns with the church ahead of the presidential election in May next year.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said in a written statement that "there is an existing law and the death penalty," and that Arroyo should not pass the burden of the presidency on to Congress.
Arroyo had earlier called for amendments that would curtail the use of capital punishment, but Drilon said Congress could not be expected to pass amendments with just 12 session days remaining before it adjourns ahead of the election campaign.
Meanwhile, Arroyo, who survived a military rebellion in July, said "there could be a destabilization aspect" in the kidnappings. She earlier ordered the police to investigate links between crime gangs and politicians.