MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ The Philippines has taken a step toward executing its first death-row inmate in 23 years, setting Feb. 5 as the execution date for a child rapist, the Justice Department head said today.

Justice Secretary Serafin Cuevas said he was given a copy of the writ of execution ordering Leo Echegaray, who was convicted of raping his 10-year-old stepdaughter, to die by lethal injection.

On Thursday, Echegaray's lawyers asked the Supreme Court to reconsider a ruling clearing the way for his execution, arguing that a repeal of the death penalty law is still possible despite an overwhelming vote by the House of Representatives earlier this week not to review it.

Cuevas, a former Supreme Court judge, said the appeal did not raise any strong new arguments and would probably be rejected.

Echegaray was originally scheduled to die on Jan. 4, but the Supreme Court ordered a six-month delay just three hours before the planned execution to give Congress time to review the law that restored capital punishment in 1994.

The Supreme Court withdrew its order on Tuesday after the House voted against reconsidering the law.

The following day, the trial court ordered prison officials to proceed with plans for Echegaray's execution. The court, however, did not announce the date of execution publicly.

Cuevas said the date must be announced because executions are of public concern.

The delay in carrying out his sentence has set off an uproar among many Filipinos exasperated by crime.

Pro-death penalty protesters staged noisy rallies and the Supreme Court received bomb threats. Others, including Catholic Church officials, have argued against the death penalty, saying there is no proof it reduces crime.

President Joseph Estrada has said he will not pardon Echegaray. He also has turned down appeals from the Vatican, the European Union and Canada to abolish capital punishment.

Lawmakers, alarmed by a rise in crime, brought back capital punishment in 1994.