||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (February 2011)|
San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines
|Died||March 17, 1995
Flor R. Contemplacion (January 1953 – March 17, 1995), born in San Pablo City, Laguna, Philippines, was a Filipino domestic worker executed in Singapore for murder. Her execution severely strained relations between Singapore and the Philippines and caused many Filipinos to vent their frustration at their own government and the Singaporean government over the helplessness, abuse, and mental stresses that many Filipino overseas workers face around the world.
Circumstances surrounding the execution
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On 4 May 1991, Delia Maga, a Filipino domestic worker, was found strangled to death in Singapore. The four-year-old child that she was taking care of, Nicholas Huang, was discovered drowned. Although Huang's father could not identify a suspect, the police learnt about Contemplacion through Maga's diary. The police interrogated Contemplacion, who then confessed the crime of murdering Maga and the child. Contemplacion never renounced her confession, and the Philippines embassy in Singapore deemed her confession credible. She was then sentenced to death by hanging. However, no medical evidence was introduced either by the prosecution or the defence during the trial, in spite of bizarre symptoms experienced on the day of the murders which she described in her confession. On appeal, the case was sent back to the same trial judge to allow medical evidence to be heard. The defence then introduced medical evidence claiming that she had been suffering from a partial complex seizure (an unusual form of epilepsy) at the time of the killings, while the prosecution's medical evidence maintained that she was suffering from only mild migraine on that day. The defence's medical evidence was rejected and she was again found guilty and sentenced to death. She received minimal support of a consular nature from the Philippines embassy in Singapore throughout her trial and there was no representative from the Philippines embassy present in court throughout the duration of the trial. The Philippines Foreign Ministry and the Philippines embassy in Singapore displayed an active interest only in the weeks leading up to her execution when public feelings in the Philippines were running high.
Although Fidel Ramos seemed initially resigned to the execution, he called Contemplacion a heroine. Amelita Ramos, First Lady of the Philippines, came to receive the coffin at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. Fidel Ramos sent a wreath to Contemplacion's funeral and offered financial assistance to Contemplacion's children who were dependent on their mother's income from her work as a domestic worker. Many Filipinos believed that Contemplacion was innocent, or at least suffering from insanity if she did commit the murders. They blamed the Singaporean government for not being merciful and were resentful with belief that their own government did not do enough to stop the execution. The Philippine embassy in Singapore in particular came in for strong criticism since it did not even have a consular representative present in court as an observer throughout the trial. The Alex Boncayao Brigade, a Communist terrorist group in the Philippines, threatened to punish Singaporean and Filipino officials. Officials of the Catholic Church in the Philippines also condemned the execution. Regardless of her innocence or guilt, others took up Contemplacion as a rallying cry against the allegedly inhumane, abusive, and exploitative working conditions that many Filipino domestic workers and laborers faced abroad. A film titled The Flor Contemplacion Story was made in the Philippines to highlight this as well as the harsh punishment Filipino overseas workers face when they totally break down from their jobs. The film won Best Picture in the Cairo Film Festival. This anger continued when a rather similar case arose only a few months later with Sarah Balabagan in the United Arab Emirates (Balabagan was not ultimately executed).
Relations between Singapore and the Philippines soured for several years after the execution. Fidel Ramos recalled the Filipino ambassador to Singapore, and many bilateral exchanges between the countries were cancelled.
- Regional Briefing Philippines: Death Threat (March 23, 1995). Far Eastern Economic Review, p. 13.
- Rose-Coloured Glasses (March 30, 1995). Far Eastern Economic Review, p. 12.
- Manila Justice: Executed Filipina Hailed as Hero (March 30, 1995). Far Eastern Economic Review, p. 5.
- Regional Briefing Philippines: Autopsy Conflict (April 13, 1995). Far Eastern Economic Review, p. 13.
- Regional Briefing Philippines: Singapore Reopens Case (April 20, 1995). Far Eastern Economic Review, p. 13.
- The Fight For Flor (March 24, 1995). Asiaweek, p. 27.
- The Furor Over Flor (March 31, 1995). Asiaweek, p. 36.
- Beyond the Rage: Lessons from the Case of Flor Contemplacion (April 7, 1995). Asiaweek, p. 17.
- The Fallout From Flor: A President's Political Worries Over a Hanged Maid (April 7, 1995). Asiaweek, p. 30.
- Savage Blows (April 14, 1995). Asiaweek, p. 33.
- More Fallout From Flor (April 28, 1995). Asiaweek, p. 34.