Lim Seng: Death by Firing Squad

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3 years ago

On this day (January 15). The year was 1973. Fort Bonifacio, Rizal (now City of Taguig), Philippines. 6:00 am. A squadron of 8 officers from the Philippine Constabulary (now Philippine National Police) led by Lt. Jose Agawin Jr. as members of the press, both local and international was invited to cover the only public execution of one of the notorious drug lords under Martial Law.

Who was executed on that day? How was he arrested?

Lim Seng, also known as Gan Suo So, a 52-year-old Chinese businessman. He was arrested on September 27, 1972 days after the proclamation of Martial Law (September 21, 1972). It was a joint operation called Oplan Dama de Noche where officers of the Philippine Constabulary formed a new unit to combat drug operations at that time, hence, they formed the Constabulary Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) led by Gen. Bienvenido L. Felix in collaboration and assistance with the US Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (now U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency).

1st Lts. Reynaldo Berroya and Saturnino Domingo led the operation with other members of the US Bureau. P3 million worth (or $62,453.81 in today's money exchange) of heroin seized from his laboratories in Caloocan and other parts of the capital region, including high-powered firearms.

How Lim got involved in the drug trade?

Lim was a struggling businessman in the 1960s. With his connections to the criminal underworld, he sourced the materials from the Golden Triangle. It borders the 3 nations of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar between the Ruak and Mekong Rivers. The largest area in South-East Asia where it produces Opium & Heroin. The materials will be delivered to Lim's Hotel suite in Manila Hotel and smuggle to his laboratories around Caloocan and Metro Manila. He produced about 100 kilograms of heroin a month, and it is exported 90% to Thailand, Singapore, and the U.S. West Coast. He opens legitimate businesses. From the printing press, factories, and restaurants to cover his tracks as a front for his drug trade.

The Verdict?

Lim Seng pleaded guilty to producing high-quality heroin, and exporting from South-East Asia & the United States, he was sentenced on October 18, 1972, to life imprisonment. Until the case was transferred to a military court since it was the beginning of Martial Law at that time. From life imprisonment, Lim was sentenced to death by firing squad. Why the case was transferred from a civilian court to a military court? Lim is not part of the armed forces, but there are differences between a civilian trial and a military trial. Although, military officers may have the right to advisements that would result in military-specific offenses. Instead of buying his way out of serving time and through his connections, the government used him as propaganda, as a warning to all violators.

The Execution

January 15, 1973. Lim woke up before 4:00 am in his cell at Camp Crame, Quezon City. Before his execution, he was able to see and took the chance of talking with his mother, his wife, his children, and his brother. After a few minutes, Lim's family left for home, and he requested that no photos will be taken. 5:55 am, the military convoy escorted Lim from Camp Crame to Fort Bonifacio. Lim was escorted by two officers. 5:57 am, Lim was strapped to a wooden post with a concrete base. Lt. Col. Florentino Marpa checked his pulse and blood pressure. Both were going rapid and going high. Officers put a blindfold to cover Lim's eyes, while his legs were strapped with a rope.

Firing squad of Lim Seng's execution

The drum roll begun, as it fades, Lt. Jose Agawin Jr. orders his men to take aim and fire. 8 gunshots, 7 bullet hits from Lim's chest. Lt. Col. Marpa checked his pulse if there are signs of a heartbeat. 6:06 am, he approached Chief of the Philippine Constabulary Brig. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos (12th President of the Philippines) and declares Lim is dead. The general lifts his telephone reporting for the MalacaƱang Palace saying "It is all over." Lim's body was unstrapped from the post, the firing squad returned to their quarters without reloading their rifles, Lim was placed on a stretcher and carried away as the crowd wants to get up-close on Lim's dead body.

The Aftermath

It was witnessed by ordinary civilians, members of the press both local & international. It reached all front-pages of the newspapers the next day, and it reached the evening news hours before his execution. It is for propaganda to scare anyone who wants to buy or sell drugs, and it would end the drug problem.

Lim Seng was the only drug lord executed by firing squad at the beginning of Martial Law. From 1972 to 1986, it wasn't followed after, but throughout this period, there were reported killings and unexplained disappearances. His execution reminds us that there is another way instead of the death penalty. It is relevant in today's situation before and after the pandemic. Many of us agree to bring it back, others would not because of our beliefs as Christians. People change, but what if? That person would come back and didn't fight his inner demons? Now, the country no longer has the death penalty. Lim's execution was used for a campaign against violators. It later spiraled to other killings and disappearances that still haunts those who lived during and after Martial Law.


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3 years ago