Monday, April 08, 2002


MANILA, Philippines - Two death-row inmates who President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said would be executed in August cannot be put to death earlier than November, the national prisons chief said Thursday.

Arroyo said Wednesday that the men, Roderick Licayan and Roberto Lara, convicted in 1998 of kidnapping, would be executed in August unless capital punishment is repealed in the meantime.

Gregorio Agaloos, superintendent of the national penitentiary holding the country's death-row inmates, said he had informed the president's office that the Supreme Court affirmed the men's sentences last Aug. 15. But the decision did not actually become final until Nov. 9, 2001.

Under the death-penalty law, an execution should be carried out between 12 and 18 months after the decision becomes final.

Arroyo suspended the death penalty after she took office in January 2001. She lifted the moratorium last October for convicted kidnappers, saying the freeze had emboldened criminals.

Kidnappings, particularly of wealthy ethnic Chinese businessmen, have scared away investors and tourists. Some victims have been killed despite payment of ransom.

The death penalty, abolished in the constitution ratified in 1987, was restored in 1994 for "heinous" crimes such as rape, kidnapping, murder and drug trafficking.

More than 1,690 people have been sentenced to death since then. Human rights groups blocked executions until 1999 and early 2000, when seven convicts were put to death, mostly for rape. They have called for a repeal of the death penalty law, saying it has not deterred crime.