GMA and Lim Seng Don’t Compare

Lim Seng's execution in 1972

One of the rationales I’ve heard from people who cheer for the punishment of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is that it will be like the case of Lim Seng, a drug trafficker who was executed during martial law times.

Lim Seng, or Gan Suo So was a Chinese drug trafficker who was apprehended and sentenced to death in December of 1972 for drug trafficking. He was brought to a space in Fort Bonifacio (not Luneta as some say) and shot by firing squad. This execution is said to have dissuaded other drug traffickers and stopped the drug trade, even for a while. It has become the stuff of legend, even giving rise to a silly story about Assumptionistas dipping their handkerchiefs in Seng’s blood as a souvenir to show their classmates, and more.

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Now some say that if GMA is imprisoned, it will be as effective as the execution of Lim Seng, scaring other people from committing corruption. However, I have my doubts. My reasons:

1. Scare shows like the Lim Seng execution are likely to have short-term effects. It may work, but likely for only a while. Some proponents of GMA’s jailing even admit that. Thinking from a long-term perspective, Lim Seng’s execution actually failed to persuade drug traffickers to quit their ways permanently. Drug traffickers still prowl the country’s alleys today. Another piece of proof: the “drug mules,” some of whom get caught and executed in China. Even if the executions happen, drug mules still continue to ply their trade. They go for quick money – because they likely need it. This is likely to continue for many reasons, but the executions in China certainly won’t stop it.

(Come to think of it, Lim Seng was a Chinese national. Now China is executing Filipino drug mules. Tit for that, huh?)

“It will stop corruption for a while.” That’s it: for a while. short-term thinking. Intimidation tactics seem too overrated. Long-term solutions â, perhaps with a more positive reinforcement – are more needed.

2. Not all corrupt people are on the same side. Surely, many of them hate each other; thus, GMA has enemies who are also corrupt. They may even be backing up the effort to imprison her. They won’t be intimidated, but may even rejoice at her imprisonment, if it happens. And they may continue playing like the mice while the cat is away. That’s why I don’t buy the idea that GMA will be a lesson against the corrupt; they’re probably the ones who set her up. Lim Seng’s execution was intimidating to the drug pushers then, because they know they’re on the same boat. Much different from GMA’s and other politicians’ cases.

But what if GMA is jailed and it did scare the other people from being corrupt, but in the end no other person is jailed for corruption? It will not only be hypocrisy; it most likely won’t last. The other corrupt officials may realize that no one’s going after them, and thus, they will return to their ways. Again, a short-term solution. The problem of impunity cannot be solved by jailing one corrupt, it has to be done by jailing all of them. This is unlikely however given the nature of the current administration.

3. Lim Seng was likely caught in the act with evidence and convicted before he was executed. But government officials charged with corruption were not caught in the act. Corruption is hidden and it is hard to get the evidence. But judgment must be based on evidence – not on opinion and hearsay. Unfortunately some people love jumping the gun and immediately condemn people without evidence.


I think Lim Seng’s execution worked for its time. But today, we have more complex times. The old ways may no longer work.

I also wonder about the circumstances of Lim Seng’s death. Was he really a drug pusher, or just some random guy used as a scapegoat and example for the public? Was the figure of 350,000 lives that he reportedly affected real, or exaggerated for propaganda? But say it’s not Lim Seng; imagine if this happened to a dear friend of yours who you knew to be honest in his dealings. Then he was suddenly picked up and executed, and the executioners say, “he is an example to scare the corrupt.” But you know your friend is not corrupt! Who would that scare: the corrupt, or law-abiding citizens like you?

Yes, I would like to see the real criminals put away and punished accordingly. We do need a properly working justice system. Perhaps jailing GMA may be seen by some people as a sign that one thing at least works right in this country. But it can also be the opposite. Jailing one corrupt official is one thing; but once they stop there, you know you’ve been had.

Moreover, it would be dangerous to hold on to the “Lim Seng mentality.” I feel that people today are overrating the impact of Lim Seng’s execution, GMA’s punishment and the effectiveness of intimidation. It may even lead to people wishing for the return of martial law days – which is very dangerous. The Lim Seng execution is a relic of a time most Filipinos would want to forget. Best not give too much credit to intimidation tactics like this, and instead focus on long-term solutions that center on positive reinforcement, such as solving the country’s economic problems.

14 Replies to “GMA and Lim Seng Don’t Compare”

  1. Executions will never deter anybody from committing crime. During the French Revolution. They cut all the heads, by Guillotine,on people who were just suspects. The Aristocrats heads were first to be cut.Then, King Louie the XVI.Then, his Queen, Marie Antoinette… Lastly,the men who initiated the French Revolution, turned against each other. First, Denton’s head was cut off.Then, Robespeire…the one who was ordering the cutting of heads. Marat was killed by a young French woman, who believed that by killing Marat. It will stop the cutting of heads. Even the inventor of the Guillotine: Dr. Guillotine, had his head cut-off by his invention. The French Reign of Terror, was the Reign of Madness…

    1. “By coincidence, a person named Guillotin was indeed executed by the guillotine – he was J.M.V. Guillotin, a doctor of Lyons. [2] This coincidence may have contributed to erroneous statements that Guillotin was put to death on the machine that bears his name; [3] however, in reality, Guillotin died in Paris in 1814 of natural causes, [3] and is now buried in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.” [4]

      Just sayin’.

  2. Heil Der Fuhrer! The greatest nutzi mind of the nutzi state! Der great Fuhrer has been punishing frau Arroyo and family since the very beginning! All this without trial and judgement handed down! No judgement yet and already guilty! His examples is the law for the nutzi master yellow race!

    Der Fuhrer further punishes frau Arroyo by railroading the case with very undue haste. The immediate issuance of an arrest warrant by the reich judge mupas is supposed to be a deterrence! He orders her held incommunicado without communications to the outside world!

    The treatment of frau Arroyo is not a deterrence! But Der Fuhrer thinks otherwise as his brilliant nutzi mind perceives that this will stop criminality and corruption! Look around you mein herrenvolk! Der Fuhrer smokes onboard a return PAL B-747 flight from San Francisco! Is this not a criminal offense? Is this not an arrogant show of his corrupt impunity?

    Der Fuhrer is not alleged corrupt? His LEDAC meeting meals costs the reich 860,000 pesos and many of the pro-democracy people say he is corrupt! Der CCT alms to the poor is ripe for ghost beneficiaries and must be investigated! The PEACE Bonds scandal has not been investigated by him!

    Der Fuhrer has concentrated on frau Arroyo! He has forgotten his reich departments and bureaus; his reichstag congress and the city, town and village governments! There is so much corruption to be found and yet he does not act on it! Why? Because frau Arroyo is his alleged corrupt centerpiece! The pro-democracy CJ is also his alleged corrupt centerpiece!

    His allied tongressmen and senatongs are all squeaky clean? Nein we are recorded by foreign statistics as a very corrupt country! Der Fuhrer is after all the master of political carnivals! Hence the need for examples to be sacrificed to the reich altar of nutzi expediency! Heil the master nutzi mind of Der Fuhrer! Truly the greatest nutzi of the nutzi state!

  3. Der Fuhrer BadNoy has concentrated his fixated, obsessive attention to frau Arroyo and family! He is also focused on the pro-democracy Chief Justice and the Supreme Court!

    Forgotten are the other major and minor functions and duties of the reich state! Forgotten when he is mad! Mad at corruption and criminality committed by those selected few! Mad at his frustrations and his perceived hatred of selected personalities and one institution!

    It is not true that he is incompetent in mind! It is not true that his rule is very unjust and his perception confused and focused at the same time! It is not true that he is coddling the corruption of his nutzi political allies!

    For he is truly the master nutzi Fuhrer of the nutzi master yellow race; its nutzi support groups and its nutcase supporters of anarchy and chaos!

  4. Dapat pugutan ng ulo yan si Gloria. Fake president, fake projects, fake promises, fake drama, fake sickness. Puro peke, puro kasinungalingan.

    1. @Vincenzo “Dapat pugutan and ulo yan si Gloria.”
      Thank you for proving a point Herr Vincenzo! You proved yourself as a criminal. It just proves the truth that Der Fuhrer BadNoy is a true criminal in setting all the wrong criminal examples.

      Ikaw ang fake at ikaw ang sinungaling. Muslim ka ba? Alam ko na…. Si Boss mo loves niya MILF. Kasama ka sa lawless elements? Salamat lumabas sa bibig mo ang tunay na katotohonan. Ikaw, ang boss mo at ang mga tulad mo ay kriminal!

    2. Mas fake si Noynoy. All gaffes. All blame games. All childish acts. All nonsense.

      All are FAKE.

      Oh yeah. *snikt* I’m gonna take your goddamn head off, Vincenzo Hitler. Let’s see how it works.

  5. In fairness, I agree with the premise of the article. There is no comparison between Gloria Arroyo and Lim Seng. Both cases happened in different times and even the crimes are not the same.

    And to Ms. Arroyo’s credit, I don’t think her supposed crime can be equated with Lim Seng’s. Yes, they affect people and future but in term of grossness and for being evil, I think, Lim Seng’s is beyonnd compare.

    However, my agreement extends only up to unfair comparison. With regard to the effects of imprisonment, hypothetically, of Gloria Arroyo, and the execution of Lim Seng I disagree with the reasons given in the article and let me express why.

    Lim Seng’s execution may be called a ‘scare show’ simply because the dictatorship at the time decided to make him an example and not really the model of punishment under the new society. Since he was just an example, the scare-effect eventually died down. It would be different if the dictatorship started lining up suspected or/and convicted drug traffickers and smugglers and make them all go Lim Seng’s way. The effect of that would not only be scary but tremendously terrifying.

    The jailing, hypothetically, of Gloria Arroyo nowhere comes near Lim Seng’s execution. While the guy was executed, Gloria Arroyo, even if convicted in all the charges against her, will not be punished by death. On that aspect alone, the long and short term effect is already out the window.

    There was scare-factor in Lim Seng’s execution because that was the main purpose. However, in Arroyo’s imprisonment, the scare-factor would only be an accessory to the main intention which is to show the determination of the government to put its foot down against wrongdoings in public service. The scare effect of her punishment might not even reach the people because of the experience they had with the unconvincing precedent case of Erap’s conviction and punishment.

    The thinking was, if Erap was able wiggle his way out just like that on a crime of plunder/graft and corruption, Gloria Arroyo would surely be given the same treatment. Just like Erap, if she is convicted and punished, she might spend a couple of months or years under house arrest and after that she’ll be pardoned and set free.

    That is where the present administration is put on the spot. That is where it is put under scrutiny. That is where the scare-factor sets in.

  6. Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your content seem to be running off the screen in Firefox. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The style and design look great though! Hope you get the problem fixed soon. Cheers

    1. There was a recent server migration and I notice things got messed up a bit from that. Have you tried clearing your cache and loading again? But thanks for letting me know, I’ll try and fix this.

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