Arroyo lifts death penalty ahead of trip to the Vatican


Sun, Jun 25, 2006 - Page 4

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a law abolishing the death penalty on the eve of her trip to the Vatican, but vowed she would not relent in battling terrorists and criminals.

"We shall continue to devote the increasing weight of our resources to the prevention and control of serious crimes, rather than take the lives of those who commit them," she said yesterday.

Noting that she was signing the law a day after a car bomb killed six people in a southern Philippine province, Arroyo said: "We will never be intimidated by these treacherous acts, and we shall fight terror as seriously as we embrace peace and development, solidarity among our law-abiding citizens and our strategic alliances."

"This commitment stands firm, and we will not relent until the total defeat of terrorists in every part of the country," she said. "We have taken a strong hand against the threats to the law and the republic, but at the same time we yield to the high moral imperatives dictated by God to walk away from capital punishment."

She called on law enforcers, judges, prosecutors and communities to help shoulder the responsibility of "sharpening law and justice for all."

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Fernando Filoni, the Vatican's envoy to Manila, congratulated Arroyo and legislators who approved the measure.

"This could be another very important nice step to go on in showing that the culture of life is very alive and important in this country," Filoni said. "We cannot speak about human rights when death penalty is imposed."

Arroyo signed the law shortly after returning to the presidential palace from a hospital where she was taken late on Thursday, suffering from acute diarrhea.

Congress two weeks earlier approved a bill abolishing capital punishment despite protests from anti-crime activists, who believe Arroyo, a staunch Roman Catholic, rushed its approval to please the pope.

Arroyo was set to leave for the Vatican today.