Forensic DNA evidence and the death penalty in the Philippines


College of Law

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Forensic Science International: Genetics



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The death penalty remains a contentious issue even though it has been abolished in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, European Union member nations and some Asian countries such as Cambodia, East Timor and Nepal. Many argue that the irrevocability of the death penalty, in the face of potential erroneous convictions, can never justify its imposition. The Philippines, the first Asian country that abolished the death penalty in 1987, held the record for the most number of mandatory death offenses (30 offenses) and death eligible offenses (22 offenses) after it was re-imposed in 1994. Majority of death penalty convictions were decided based on testimonial evidence. While such cases undergo automatic review by the Supreme Court, the appellate process in the Philippines is not structured to accept post-conviction evidence, including DNA evidence. Because of the compelling nature of post-conviction DNA evidence in overturning death penalty convictions in the United States, different groups advocated its use in the Philippines. In one such case, People v Reynaldo de Villa, the defendant was charged with raping his 13-year-old niece that supposedly led to birth of a female child, a situation commonly known as 'criminal paternity'. This paper reports the results of the first post-conviction DNA test using 16 Short Tandem Repeat (STR) DNA markers in a criminal paternity case (People v Reynaldo de Villa) and discusses the implications of these results in the Philippine criminal justice system.



Criminal Law


Capital punishment—Philippines; Forensic genetics—Philippines

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