[TCPC] Court commutes Filipina’s death sentence to life term


DIPLOMACY?: Relatives of the victim who the woman was convicted of killing say the court had placated Manila because the Philippines had abolished the death penalty By Shelley Huang STAFF REPORTER Tuesday, May 05, 2009, Page 2

The Taiwan High Court yesterday handed down a life sentence to Nemencia Armia, a Filipino English teacher convicted of murder in 2007.

The high court’s decision overruled a lower court’s death sentence.

Speaking after the hearing, the High Court’s Kaohsiung branch spokesman, Weng Ching-chen (翁慶珍), said the court sentenced Armia to life in prison rather than death because “the killing was a sudden occurrence, and was not premeditated.”

“[Armia] did not carefully plan her crime and did not obtain a large amount of money, so she is not considered to be an extremely evil criminal,” he said.

Armia, 40, was silent during the court hearing. After she was told by an interpreter that her death sentence had been changed to a life sentence, she said “thank you” to the judge, TV reports showed.

The Kaohsiung District Court sentenced Armia to death after she was convicted of stabbing to death her job broker, 48-year-old Chou Mei-yun (邱美雲), in September 2007. She was also charged with robbery and murder.

Chou was a broker who helped foreigners find teaching jobs at private schools in and around the Kaohsiung area.

Prosecutors said Armia met Chou at her residence on Sept. 15. She wanted Chou to lend her some money but Chou refused.

She hit Chou in the face and then took her of her, credit cards and cash.

Because Chou refused to hand over the cards’ PIN numbers, Armia attacked her with a kitchen knife, killing her.

She was caught on closed circuit TV disposing of the broker’s body in a garbage bag. She also withdrew NT$660,000 (US$20,000) from the broker’s bank account using Chou’s ATM card.

Chou’s relatives were angry about the high court’s ruling, vowing to appeal.

“They [the family] think there are diplomatic factors in the change of the ruling because the Philippines has abolished the death penalty, so Manila put pressure on Taiwan to give Armia a lighter sentence,” Kaohsiung City Councilor Chen Mei-chuan (陳玫娟) told reporters.

“They told me they will appeal the ruling,” she said.

Last week, Armia’s family held a news conference in Manila, urging Philippine President Gloria Arroyo to appeal to Taiwan to spare Armia’s life because the Philippines had abolished the death penalty.

“But Chou’s family members claim that Armia committed the crime in Taiwan, so she should be tried under Taiwan’s law,” Chen said.

Last October, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei appealed to judicial authorities for clemency. MECO Director Antonio Basilio expressed regret over the ruling in a statement and said he hoped the courts would overturn the ruling or reduce the sentence.