April 5, 2023
MANILA — The head of a congressional panel on Tuesday urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to act with dispatch in assisting 56 Filipinos on death row in Malaysia.
But Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo, who heads the House committee on overseas workers, also noted that Parlimen Malaysia, the country’s legislature, on Monday voted to remove the mandatory death penalty on 34 offenses that had been punishable by death, including murder and drug trafficking.
Kuala Lumpur has had a moratorium on executions since 2018, when it first promised to abolish capital punishment entirely.
Under the amendments passed on Monday, alternatives to the death penalty include whipping and imprisonment of between 30 and 40 years.
Salo called the vote in Malaysia a “progressive and humane development” that could benefit Filipinos on death row.
Filipino convicts meted the death penalty or life imprisonment, he said, may now seek a review of their sentences.
“This is certainly a welcome development, especially for our kababayans on death row in Malaysia who may have a justifiably legal cause to receive a much lesser penalty,” he said, adding that Malaysia’s new legislation was very timely, as it coincided with Ramadan.
According to Salo, the DFA said in a previous hearing by his panel that a total of 83 Filipinos in different countries were on death row, including the 56 in Malaysia.
“It gives us so much hope that many of their cases will be reconsidered and will be given lighter punishments. This will give our countrymen the chance to reform and lead better lives,” he said.
He pointed out further that, before Monday’s vote in Kuala Lumpur, most of the cases of Filipinos on death row were already final and their only recourse was to seek pardon.
Salo called on the DFA and the DMW to “immediately provide all the needed legal assistance for overseas Filipinos on death row in Malaysia for a review of their sentences.”