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EU Envoys Visit Condemned Prisoners in Philippines - 2004-01-15

European envoys opposed to the resumption of executions in the Philippines after a four-year break have visited condemned prisoners in a Manila prison. European Union representatives spent Thursday morning chatting to inmates and inspecting conditions on death row at Manila's maximum-security prison.

The government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is set to execute two inmates at the prison on January 30, following public clamor late last year to re-impose the death penalty in the wake of a surge in kidnappings and murders. The death penalty is outlawed in the European Union, a major aid donor to the Philippines, and officials have asked the government to reconsider its stance.

Ambassador Jan de Kok, head of the EU delegation, told reporters that executing inmates again would tarnish the image of the Philippines in the international community.

Raimo Anttola, Finnish ambassador to the Philippines, told local television that the delegation still thinks the government could reconsider its decision. "We still hope that there is still time that this execution may not be implemented."

In a brief statement on Thursday, the presidential palace said it respected the European Union's views but added that the decision to re-impose capital punishment was an internal affair.

President Arroyo, who is facing a tough election campaign this year, previously opposed the death penalty and suspended executions when she came to power in January 2001. The last executions were carried out in early 2000.