Date of Award


Degree Type

Restricted Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


This ethnographic study examines the life histories and persisting concerns of women who once received the death sentence in the Philippines. This research examines the circumstances that led to these women's incarceration and sentencing and the consequences thereof for their families, particularly their children. This study also looks into the impact of the June 2006 abolition of capital punishment on their situation.

The research methods for this project included participant observation with former death row inmates in the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) and the Correctional Institution for Women-Mindanao (CIW-Mindanao). The researcher also conducted in-depth interviews with 27 women formerly on death row, nine members of their families, and eight corrections staff. Finally, the researcher engaged in document analysis of prison and dormitory rules and regulations, articles and reports on the death penalty and incarcerated women in the Philippines, and other pertinent sources.

The majority of the inmate-respondents were incarcerated for kidnapping and drug-related offenses. A smaller proportion of the women were incarcerated for such crimes as: parricide (killing their husbands), murder, car theft with murder, and arson with homicide. Only 10 women pleaded guilty; of this, two women charged with parricide claimed that they had killed their husbands in self-defense or in response to their in-laws' abuse of their children. The remainder claimed that they had been implicated in the offenses of their husbands, partners, relatives, and/or acquaintances or framed up by more powerful players in the drug trade, drug users negotiating a lighter sentence, law enforcement agents, and members of organized crime syndicates. The majority also reported police brutality and/or extortion upon their arrest.

When asked about their time on death row, the majority of the women recalled their fear and outrage when they were sentenced to death--especially those who insisted on their innocence--and their inability to eat, sleep, and concentrate shortly after their transfer from jail to prison. The women largely acknowledged the moral support of their fellow death row inmates. Others recounted the stigma they faced as death row inmates.

All the women mentioned the sense of relief and hope they felt upon the abolition of capital punishment. The women's sentences have since been commuted to life imprisonment without parole. The only exceptions are those whose sentences were commuted to regular life imprisonment terms before the abolition of the death penalty. There is a great deal of confusion among the women as regards the terms of their new sentence, in that many assume that they are automatically eligible for parole.

To date, no sociological studies on women formerly on death row, let alone women inmates, have been conducted in the Philippines, thereby reinforcing their invisibility. This research intends to make women formerly on death row more visible and to advocate for continued reforms in the criminal justice system on their behalf.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.