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Philippine Court Postpones Resumption of Executions - 2004-01-28

The Philippine Supreme Court has ordered a temporary delay in the resumption of the death penalty - three days before two convicted kidnappers were to be executed.

President Gloria Arroyo halted preparations for the executions after the Supreme Court ruling. The court said Wednesday that it needs more time to review new evidence in the case of the two kidnappers.

Their executions, originally set for Friday, would have been the first in the Philippines in four years.

Roberto Lara and Roderick Licayan were convicted of kidnapping a Chinese businessman and his assistant in 1998. The judges said the executions would have to be deferred until the end of February when it will decide whether the evidence presented warrants a retrial.

President Arroyo lifted a four-year moratorium on executions last month after a wave of violent kidnappings targeting the wealthy Chinese community. "Let us show these criminals that the law never sleeps and they cannot escape it," she said."

The death penalty issue comes amid a tough election period for the president. Ms. Arroyo, who says she is personally against the death penalty, had earlier rejected appeals from the Catholic Church, the European Union and human rights groups to stop the executions.

Wednesday, she said her government would respect the court's decision.

The death penalty was abolished in 1987, but was reinstated in 1994 for crimes such as rape, kidnapping, murder and drug trafficking. Seven convicts were put to death from 1999 to 2000, mostly for rape and murder.