Flor Contemplacion - A diplomatic incident.

Flor Contemplacion, a 42 year old Filipina maid, was convicted by a Singaporean court of killing another Filipina maid, Delia Maga and Nicholas Huang, the three year old Singaporean son of her employer on May 4th, 1991.
She had originally confessed to the murders. It was, however, later claimed that she made the confession under duress, and it has also been claimed that she was of doubtful sanity at the time they were committed, although this seems unlikely.

She was hanged by Darshan Singh, at 6.00 a.m. on Friday, the 17th of March 1995 together with three male drug traffickers, amidst scenes of unusually tight security. Eight policemen, including two armed with machine guns and wearing flak jackets, stood outside the prison gates with two dogs.  Police cars and motorcycles patrolled the street continuously, apparently to deter protests by the estimated 75,000 Filipinos working in Singapore.

Anger swept the Philippines as the news of the execution broke. Leftist and feminist groups, human rights activists and the media denounced Singapore as a barbaric, tyrannical and totalitarian state with no respect for human rights. The Roman Catholic Church called Singapore a state without mercy.

Diplomatic wrangling.
The execution caused a major diplomatic row between Singapore and the Philippines, after Singapore rejected an appeal from the Philippines President, Fidel Ramos. There were protests outside the Singapore Embassy in Manila.

Flor had said, on the eve of her execution, that she was ready to die after final pleas for clemency and a new trial had been rejected. The Philippine Foreign Secretary said that she had thanked Filipinos for their efforts in trying to save her, but had said that if the stay of execution will only delay the carrying out of her sentence, she preferred to have an early end to everyone's suffering instead.
Flor was visited in Changi prison daily by her children, a 21-year-old son, a 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old twin boys who had last seen their mother in 1989, but her husband Efren didn't visit her because, "I could not bear to see her and not be able to touch her or embrace her after seven years."
He had made an emotional appeal a week earlier for help in saving his wife.

She was informed of the date and the time of the hanging on the Tuesday (14th March) before the execution, as is customary in Singapore and apparently took the news calmly. "She was resigned to her fate and she tried to be strong and told the children to be strong and love one another."

The Philippine government had requested a stay of execution. Solicitor-General Raul Goco, in a letter to the Singapore government, asked for this "to put all doubts to rest before the case of Mrs. Contemplacion comes to a final conclusion." He had urged Singapore to defer the hanging "on humanitarian considerations."
Philippine President Fidel Ramos had personally asked
Singapore to postpone the execution until new evidence, testimony from another Filipino maid had been evaluated. But the Singapore government said it "carefully investigated this new evidence and found it to be untrue." Therefore, the Singaporean President, Ong Teng Cheong, found there was no basis to justify a stay of execution.

At least two maids came forward during the week prior to the hanging to suggest that the little boy drowned during an epileptic fit in a bathtub and his father killed Mrs. Maga and framed Flor in a fit of rage.
One, Virginie Parumog, said in an affidavit she had shared a cell with Flor and had evidence of her innocence. In her affidavit, Parumog said Flor told her that, "Della immediately phoned her employer about the incident. Her male employer immediately rushed home. Very angry, the employer strangled Della's neck." Then the employer called the police and implicated Flor in the double murder.

"These claims are pure fabrication," a Singaporean Home Affairs Ministry statement said. "The wild and baseless allegations of Virginie Parumog are yet another attempt to stir up controversy over the Flor Contemplacion case, without any regard for the truth."
The Home Ministry said Parumog claimed Contemplacion told her that when visiting Della Maga, the two maids had discovered Nicholas had drowned. According to the Ministry, when the police arrived, Contemplacion was not at the house. She was traced later through entries made in Della Maga's diary. In addition, it was not the boy's father who phoned police, it was the mother.
The Ministry statement also dismissed other claims made by Parumog, including that Flor had undergone electric shock treatment while awaiting trial and had been drugged. They said she was given two electro-encephalogram (EEG) tests, one of which was ordered by her own defence psychiatrist and was given medication only for headaches and a sore throat.
The statement also pointed out that Flor had had ample opportunity to protest her innocence while in jail and had chosen not to do so. "During her imprisonment Flor Contemplacion had nine visits by Philippine embassy officials. The government did not receive any representations regarding complaints of ill treatment or claims to Contemplacion's innocence," the ministry said. "Are we to believe that if Flor Contemplacion felt that she was innocent she would chose to say so only to a prostitute in prison," it added.

According to the Home Ministry, Parumog had been arrested in Singapore on June the 25th, 1992, and had signed a statement saying that she had come to the island republic for prostitution and "was charging Singaporeans $100 ($70) per sexual entertainment."

After the execution.
Flor Contemplacion's body was released and flown back to Manila and was greeted by the President's wife, Amelita, at the airport. Perhaps, extraordinarily for a country that was actively trying to restore the death penalty itself at the time, President Ramos and the Philippine people saw Contemplacion as a heroine. Some mourners waved white handkerchiefs and others clenched their fists and carried placards saying "Justice for Flor Contemplacion" as her funeral cortege passed through Manila's streets.
Thousands jammed into the small town of San Pablo where she had lived to pay their last respects to Flor. More than 5,000 town residents and supporters from Manila and nearby areas flocked round her one-room house to try to catch a glimpse of her body in its open white coffin.
Roman Catholic Bishop Teodoro Bacani held a requiem mass in the town's crowded cathedral for her. He told the congregation - "She is a symbol of millions of Filipinos driven by poverty to take their chances abroad," "Their lot is pathetic. Their own government neglects them," he added, evoking applause from the congregation.

The aftermath.
President Ramos set up an inquiry into the case and ordered the exhumation of Delia Maga's remains to determine how she died. Her former husband complained that he and the family had never seen the autopsy report on her. Conrado Maga said his wife's body bore bruises on the shoulder, neck and face.
"We will try to determine if these are still present and if these could have been caused by a female," a Philippine detective, Maximo Reyes, said in a radio interview. He said they may have to rely on bone findings since the remains have been buried for four years. "Doctors can tell in bone findings if there are fractures or cracks. That means it is not possible for a woman to have done that. It could have been someone stronger," said Reyes, who will initially examine the corpse.

This new inquiry seemed to conclude that the Singaporeans were right and that Flor Contemplacion probably was guilty although many in the Philippines will never accept its findings.
Relationships between Singapore and the Philippines have slowly got back to normal.

It is noteworthy that none of the "new evidence" that purported to show her innocence came to light beforehand. In the last week of her life, everyone seemed to jump on the bandwagon and yet she had been in prison for four years and on death row for two of those years. There was little diplomatic activity during that time and she seemed to have made very little effort to deny the allegations.

Singapore might sensibly have considered granting a stay of execution as requested by President Ramos, and it hard to see how doing so would have damaged its criminal justice system. However, once its made up its mind on a particular case, it seems nothing in the world will stop Singapore letting the law take its course. (N. B. the cases of the American teenager Michael Faye who was caned for criminal damage and Dutchman Johannes van Damme who was hanged for drug trafficking despite protests from all over Europe.)

It does, however, seem a little odd that a country such as the Philippines that had the death penalty itself (and had several women under sentence of death at the time) should have been so concerned over Flor Contemplacion's fate. If she was indeed guilty of double murder, she would have most probably received the death sentence in her own country. Public sympathy was with her because of the treatment so many poor and poorly educated Filipino migrant workers are subjected to in overseas countries. The economy in the Philippines, being a poor nation, is heavily dependent on the more than $2 billion sent home annually by an estimated three million Filipinos, the majority women, who work overseas. It is noticeable that they are regularly executed in such places as Saudi Arabia, usually for drug trafficking, and seem to be frequently to be the victims of abuse by there wealthy employers worldwide.

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