[JURIST] Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website; JURIST news archive] announced Sunday that she would commute all death sentences to life imprisonment. With the decision affecting 1,200 convicts currently on death row, Arroyo said, "I wish to announce that we are changing our policy on those who have been imposed the death penalty. We are reducing their penalty to life imprisonment." Arroyo, a devout Catholic, did not say whether she would move to abolish the death penalty, although no executions have been carried out during her term.
Critics, however, feel that the move was an effort to win over the country's powerful Catholic bishops and see Arroyo's decision as an abuse of power. The government has been trying to gain the support of the Catholic Church in their effort to amend the Philippines constitution [text] to create a parliamentary political system to replace the current presidential system. Arroyo's government believes that a parliamentary system will ease the political scandals that have plagued the country. Most recently, Arroyo declared a state of emergency [JURIST report] after discovering a coup [JURIST report] attempt earlier this year. Reuters has more. The Philippine Star has local coverage.