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Recent Rash of Kidnappings in Philippines

November 24, 2003

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A recent rash of kidnappings in the Philippines could be the work of people aiming to destabilize the government, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said Monday.

Arroyo said she will continue consulting with Congress about calls from relatives of kidnap victims and the Chinese-Filipino community that the government use the death penalty for kidnappers. But she emphasized that capital punishment ``is not the end-all to heinous crimes.″

``There could be a destabilization aspect in these events and we are monitoring it closely,″ Arroyo said in a statement. ``I am resolved to take all means to deter the commission of heinous crimes and strengthen criminal justice.″

Her spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said Arroyo ``is not closed to the idea of implementing the death penalty, especially on a case-by-case basis for the high-profile drug and kidnapping cases.″

Arroyo suspended the death penalty shortly after taking office in January 2001. Last year, she lifted the moratorium for convicted kidnappers, saying it had emboldened criminals. However, no convicted kidnapper has been put to death since then.

Last week, gunmen seized 32-year-old Betti Chua Sy, commercial finance director of Coca-Cola Export Corp., shooting her car after she refused to open the doors when they flagged her down. She apparently bled to death.

Her killing has been described as the worst of this year’s more than 100 abductions, a spree that continues to tag the Philippines as Asia’s kidnap capital.

Sy was buried Sunday in a suburban cemetery after a funeral march joined by hundreds of grieving relatives, friends and members of the Chinese-Filipino community, police officials and Reyes.

Some mourners carried steamers that read ``Justice for Betty Sy, death for kidnappers.″

In a joint statement, 28 Chinese-Filipino associations condemned Sy’s kidnapping and asked the government to end the abduction menace.

``The curse of kidnapping for ransom is getting bolder. Once again, it strikes fear and dread in our communities,″ the statement said.

It urged government to go after masterminds of kidnapping gangs, establish a special court for kidnapping cases, implement the death penalty for convicted kidnappers and commit necessary resources to Reyes’ National Anti-kidnapping Task Force.

On Friday, kidnappers seized a schoolgirl and wounded her driver and nanny on one of Manila’s busiest streets. It came a day after the country’s most wanted kidnap syndicate leader and three of his gang members were killed in a shootout 55 miles northwest of Manila that also left a police officer dead.

On Saturday, kidnappers snatched a Chinese-Filipino trader and his wife in southern Sultan Kudarat province. The couple managed to escape after the kidnappers’ vehicle flipped over during a chase by soldiers and police.

Update hourly