HomeNewsPhilippine clergy alarmed over growing support for death penalty

Philippine clergy alarmed over growing support for death penalty

Members of the Catholic clergy of the Archdiocese of Manila expressed alarm over the ease with which legislators responded to the call to revive capital punishment in the country.

In a statement, the clergy said that while they agree that it is the duty of legislators to enact laws and policies, “we condemn the lack of independence and imprudence of some of them who decided to immediately bow to the wishes of President Rodrigo Duterte.”

Several legislators have filed several proposals in Congress in the past weeks following the call of President Duterte last month to revive the death penalty for drug-related crimes.

“We see such acts as betrayal of the people’s interests and an implicit support to the creeping authoritarian tendencies exuded by this administration,” read the priests’ statement.

While they agree that crime deserves punishment and that the state has the authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes, the priests cited several reasons why they object to the reimposition of capital punishment.

They maintained that the death penalty does not effectively deter crime. “What deters crime is the certainty of conviction and the imposition of punishment,” said the priests.

“What the country needs, therefore, is a reform of the criminal justice system with the eradication of crooked, corrupt and unprincipled practices in law enforcement agencies, judiciary and penal systems,” they added.

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They said that death penalty is also “biased and unfair,” even likening it to the government’s “war on drugs.”

They said the death penalty is an “unjustified form of retribution.”

“We believe that only God has the right to take life away from us. Hence, we condemn criminals who took the lives of their victims and they must be punished for it,” said the priests.

They said that punishment should not anymore include death because there are other means already available to punish criminals and to protect society from them.

The priests also cited the fallibility and imperfection of the country’s justice system as another reason for rejecting capital punishment.

They said that as pastors, they recognize the heartache, distress, and anguish experienced by victims of violent crimes.

“However, our support for victims and their families does not oblige us to push for the re-imposition of the penalty of death,” said the clergy as they called on government leaders to make every effort to “establish a system of justice that brings restoration and harmony and not death.”

Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete, meanwhile, said the death penalty is “no longer necessary” because many have already died in the “drug war.”

The prelate said there are bigger problems in the country that government leaders should focus more, like addressing the needs of those who are hungry and without jobs because of the pandemic.

“Yet, we have a national leadership fixated with terrorism, charter change, and the passing of the anti-terror bill,” said the bishop from the central Philippines.

Speaking to priests in his diocese, Bishop Cortes reminded members of the clergy to be “prophetic” in proclaiming the “good news of the kingdom of God.”

“As prophets, we teach what is good according to the laws of God. Anything that is contrary to that, we have the obligation to teach and preacher, and to correct if necessary,” he said.

He urged priests, who are also experiencing “poverty” because of the pandemic, to “endure” and be purified for “greater service” for the Lord and neighbor.

The House Committee on Justice revived hearings on death penalty bills on Wednesday, August 5.

Ryan Christopher J. Sorote contributed to this report from Dumaguete City.

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