Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines vow to continue opposing the implementation of capital punishment in the country.
“We work together to defend the sanctity of life … as it is a gift from God,” said Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, head of the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care of the bishops’ conference.
The prelate made the statement in an interview over Radio Veritas 846 on the occasion of the 16th anniversary of the signing of Republic Act 9346 that prohibits death penalty in the Philippines.
The law, known as “An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of the Death Penalty in the Philippines,” was signed by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who said the death penalty should be abolished because it had not proven to be a deterrent to crime and had become a dead-letter law.
Bishop Baylon said the stand of the Church against capital punishment will never change.
“The Holy Father himself said that we are going to work hard so that this death penalty will totally be stopped in the entire globe,” said the prelate.
“We do our part as well here as we continue to work on this Coalition Against the Death Penalty,” he added.
He said that the “inalienable dignity of the human person… must never be taken for granted and must not be removed by any human person no matter what wrong he may or she may have done.”
“No crime, no evil removes that dignity of the human person as the image of God,” added Bishop Baylon.
The prelate has earlier challenged anti-death penalty advocates in the country to “exert more efforts” in influencing public attitude toward the value of human life.
He lamented that many people still look at death penalty as a “just way” of meting out judgment to those who committed crimes.
“The old ‘lex talionis’ is still very much present in the mind and in the mindset of many of our people,” Bishop Baylon said.
“We need to exert more efforts to let our people understand, through different ways, and help them see the dignity of the human person,” he stressed.
A 2018 survey by the Social Weather Stations found that nearly six in every 10 Filipinos agree that the death penalty should be reinstated for heinous crimes.
The poll showed that of the 2,000 respondents nationwide, 59 percent want capital punishment for people proven in court to have committed heinous crimes, while 23 percent disagreed.
The bishop also encouraged advocates to continue working with the government “in making sure that laws and structures are provided in the defense of human life.”