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Last Updated: Friday, 5 December, 2003, 08:21 GMT
Philippines executions to resume
Philippines President Gloria Arroyo
Arroyo has struggled with the death penalty
Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has lifted a moratorium on the death penalty, opening the way for executions to resume in January.

The decision, which comes ahead of presidential elections in 2004, follows a series of kidnappings which have particularly targeted the ethnic Chinese community.

Mrs Arroyo has appeared to waver over the moratorium, which was first imposed by her predecessor following pressure from the powerful Catholic Church.

Her decision to lift the freeze follows a number of high-profile abductions for ransom.

Much as I am averse to the taking of human lives in this manner, the president must yield to the higher public interest
President Arroyo
These included the murder in November of Coca-Cola executive Betti Sy, a Filipino-Chinese whose body was found by a roadside.

Three days later, a 10-year-old ethnic Chinese girl was abducted outside her school in Manila.

Public pressure

In the past, Mrs Arroyo has used her powers as president to grant clemency to those sentenced to death by the courts.

But on Friday Mrs Arroyo said in a statement: "I shall no longer stand in the way of executions scheduled by the courts for January 2004."

"Much as I am averse, as a matter of moral principle, to the taking of human lives in this manner, the president must yield to the higher public interest when dictated by extraordinary circumstances," she said.

The change of heart will be welcomed by leaders of the Filipino-Chinese community, who have criticised the government's record on tackling violent crime.

They say many kidnappings go unreported because families do not trust the police.

A BBC correspondent says the support of the economically-powerful Filipino-Chinese would certainly help Mrs Arroyo's campaign for election.

Commentators say the death penalty moratorium has risked making the president seem soft on crime in the run-up to next year's election.

Philippine executions suspended
30 Sep 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Gloria Arroyo
28 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: The Philippines
09 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: The Philippines
18 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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