The Burial of Anria Espiritu: Justice and the Death Penalty

The Burial of Anria Espiritu: Justice and the Death Penalty

When people bid a dead person farewell, most would say rest in peace. But for casualties of crime, will there really be peace for families and loved ones left behind? More importantly, will there be justice? This was on my mind while I was covering the burial of Anria Espiritu.

For days, I’ve read and heard news stories about her gruesome gang rape and murder in Calumpit, Bulacan. I was thankful I had the chance to at least offer Anria my last respects. She was more than a news report for me.

The story of Anria made me realize how people close to us can become crime victims in an instant. She was the second cousin of my co-author Jervis Manahan. If it can happen to the family of Jervis, it can happen to all of us.

Balitanghali LIVE report
Balitanghali LIVE report
Jervis Manahan with his sister and cousins
Jervis Manahan with his sister and cousins

Anria Galang Espiritu (1987-2014)

Before this tragedy, her family described Anria as a simple woman with simple dreams. Her college course was computer-based accountancy but she once had an opportunity to work as a seawoman abroad. She chose to stay closer to home, never leaving her hometown of Calumpit.

Her friends remember her as sweet and kind. She also played keyboards in her church choir. Anria also had a boyfriend of three years who was devastated with her death. They were not in good terms during the week when she died. But he told me they have discussed plans to get married this coming January. In her family, Anria is the eldest among three siblings. I never got a chance to talk or even see her two brothers. Her mother told me they were very private people.

Her father has been undergoing dialysis sessions for quite some time. On the same day the hospital finally cleared him to return home, the family received the body of Anria.

Anria's mom, Gloria Espiritu
Anria’s mom, Gloria Espiritu

The March to the Cemetery

Many people expect news reporters to isolate their personal opinions and perspectives during field work. But we’re also human too. I stood in a corner while her family escorted her casket out of their home and into the cemetery. The scenes in front of me broke my heart.

Anria's boyfriend
Anria’s boyfriend

But if anything, the family of Anria can find solace in the number of people who attended her interment. Some were classmates, neighbors, family friends and even strangers.

Show of support.
Show of support.

Justice to the Grave

As I looked over Anria’s final resting place, I wondered how many more were like her — buried in the ground without justice. Along with Anria, should the family bury their hopes that they can convict the demons who did this? I pray they remain strong. It will be a long and frustrating fight. But they must not surrender.

In an Assignment Pilipinas report from State of the Nation with Jessica Soho, official records indicate there are more crime incidents this 2014 than last year. The Philippine National Police reports the following numbers:

  • January-June 2013: 295,012 cases
  • January-June 2014: 346,469 cases

The PNP emphasizes they are doing their best to improve the resolution of these cases. From their database, they also report an increase in crime solution efficiency:

  • January-June 2013: 70,030 solved crimes (26.77% efficiency)
  • January-June 2014: 135,330 solved crimes (36.55% efficiency)

These numbers may show progress but they are still numbers. As long as people continue to live in fear when they are out of their homes at night, the peace and order situation is still a major work in progress.

Last farewell
Last farewell

Death Penalty

I interviewed a civil society group who visited the Espiritu family on the day of the burial. They were campaigning for the restoration of the death penalty. These advocates argue that criminals are not afraid of the law anymore. The untimely demise of Anria further re-ignited discussions to revive capital punishment.

But as of now, the Philippines is enforcing Republic Act No. 9346, a law that prohibits the death penalty. Our nation is familiar with the death penalty. Through the years, our history has documented the garrote (Gomburza), firing squad (Dr. Jose Rizal), death by hanging (Macario Sakay), electric chair (Maggie de la Riva gang rape case) and lethal injection.

A garrote execution in 1901
A garrote execution in 1901
Dr. Jose Rizal's execution in Luneta
Dr. Jose Rizal’s execution in Luneta
The Maggie de la Riva gang rape case
The Maggie de la Riva gang rape case
Lethal injection in California
Lethal injection in California

The 1987 Philippine Constitution installed significant limitations to the death penalty. In 1993, President Fidel V. Ramos reinstated capital punishment but the first execution happened in 1999 (Leo Echegaray) during Erap’s presidency. In 2006, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished the death penalty once again (the abovementioned RA 9346).

This year, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III is seeking to repeal RA 9346 with Senate Bill 2080. His reason: the rising incidence of heinous crimes in the Philippines. In press interviews last January 30, 2014, President Noynoy Aquino maintains his belief that death penalty is not the only solution against criminality. As an alternative, President Aquino believes the judicial system needs further strengthening.

I personally believe the death penalty can be effective as a crime deterrent if our system is efficient. But in the Philippines, the prevailing framework is patron politics or palakasan.

The rich and powerful may have all the means to escape and defy death. The poor and oppressed may not. I am merely cautious. If the suspect is really guilty and deserving, the death penalty is a bittersweet justice for the victims. If the suspect was innocent all along, we may have no way of knowing the truth if we have a corrupt system.

Farewell, Anria

Justice is elusive. But it is not an imaginary concept and I pray it shall prevail. May the Filipino people help your family find your killers. I shall never forget.

Last goodbye.
Last goodbye.

About the Author:

Bam Alegre.
Bam Alegre is the founder of and writes from time to time as a guest contributor. He is a News Reporter for GMA News (2012) and an Instructor for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of the East (2015). He was also part of the team that won GMA News the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for the news coverage of super typhoon Yolanda (2013). Previously, he worked behind the scenes as a Segment Producer for State of the Nation with Jessica Soho and 24 Oras (2009-2012). He is also the vocalist, pianist and guitarist of the band No Parking (2005). BA Broadcast Communication 2007, UP Diliman. Read more of his articles here.

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Roger says:

    JUSTICE FOR ANRIA, From Canada I dedicate this in memory of Anria, a close friend of mine who died a few years ago..


  2. justiceforanria says:

    pinay ako , apaka layo ko man, di ko man kilala si anria, napaka sakit at kusang lumuluha ang mata ko sa balitang ito…kung may death penalty kahit pano mag dadalawang isip ang mga demonyo…


  3. Ninz Cruz says:

    I support the death penalty in the Philippines because I believe, if administered swiftly and justly, capital punishment is a deterrent against future violence and will save other innocent lives.

    Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. You don’t deserve that such fate Anria Galang Espiritu. We will seek justice for you. Justice will prevail!

    Our hearts are heavy with sadness and tears, but our memories are full of the love and kindness you gave over the years. You’re now another little flower in God’s heavenly garden. Rest in peace and know that we will never forget you.


    1. Fred says:

      “And some that die deserve life.”–Paano kung ang isang “inosenteng” tao ay mamatay dahil lang sa nabayaran ang “hustisya”? Gustong-gusto ko ring mamatay ung mga gumagawa ng kagaguhan,pero kahit ganun kalaki ang galit ko sa kanila eh hindi ko magawang pumayag sa death penalty. Ika nga ni Mareng Winnie sa isa niyang palabas,(Non verbatim)”Mas okay nang makatakas sa parusa at mabuhay ang isang kriminal, kaysa naman sa mamatay ang isang inosente dahil hindi na kailanman mababalik pa ang buhay ng isang tao.”

      PS:Hindi ako naghahanap ng away(lol), gusto ko lang malaman kung anong reaksyon/masasabi mo sa mga dahilan ko kung bakit tutol ako sa death penalty.


      1. Bam Alegre says:

        Hi Fred and Ninz, it’s ok to have a healthy discussion. That’s what I wrote in the article. I think death penalty can scare criminals if it can be implemented efficiently. But in a corrupt system (like what usually happens here), there are instances when justice can be bought. What if the suspect was innocent and just framed up? We may never know if the system is corrupt.


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