Philippines: church asked to intervene to stop executions

 MPs in the Philippines appealed to the Catholic Church yesterday to ask the Pope to appeal for clemency for two convicted kidnappers condemned to death next week. The execution of Roberto Lara and Roderick Licayan, by lethal injection, is due to take place on 30 January. They would be the first people to be executed in the country in four years. In 1999 President Joseph Estrada declared a moratorium on executions amid pressure from the influential Catholic church and rights groups. But Mrs Arroyo, a staunch Catholic, reintroduced the deth penalty last month after the body of a kidnapped executive was found stuffed in a rubbish bag. More than 156 people have been kidnapped in the Philippines in the past year. Police say the crime has reached a ten-year high. Joseph Santiago, a member of parliament and anti-death penalty campaigner, said he thought Mrs Arroyo had lifted the moratorium in an effort to look tough on crime - ahead of the national election in four months' time. But he said: "A direct and personal appeal from the Pope might just persuade the President to change her mind. She can still stay the executions. We are convinced that Mrs Arroyo, deep in her heart, is opposed to state-sponsored killings. " Only a presidential stay can save the men. Arroyo has already said she would not stand in the way of the law and rejected appeals from the European Union to halt the executions.

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