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Philippines Bishops explain opposition to death penalty

In a statement issued at the beginning of August, the Bishops of the Philippines reiterate their opposition to the reintroduction of the death penalty in their country.

By Vatican News

The Bishops of the Philippines are once again voicing their “strong opposition” to the reintroduction of capital punishment in the nation.

Capital punishment in the Philippines

The death penalty was a legal punishment in the Philippines for much of the country’s history. After the fall of the Ferdinand Marcos regime in the 1980s, a moratorium on capital punishment was imposed, but executions resumed in 1999. The practice was outlawed in 2006.

The current president, Rodrigo Duterte, has campaigned for the restoration of the death penalty, and polls suggest many Filipinos support his position. Several bills have been revived in the Senate seeking to restore capital punishment.

Reasons for opposition

In a statement issued last week by the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-ECPPC), the Bishops argue that “the death penalty violates the inherent dignity of a person, which is not lost despite the commission of a crime.” They cite Pope Francis, who has said “that capital punishment is an offence ‘against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, which contradicts God’s plan for man and society’ and ‘does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance.’”

In addition, they point out that the death sentence is irrevocable, thus leaving no possibility for correcting errors that could occur in an imperfect justice system. For the same reason, it does not give the offender an opportunity to change. “But true justice is restorative,” they say, “never merely punitive.” Punishment should offer the opportunity for amendment.

Further, they argue that capital punishment is unfairly applied to “the most vulnerable sectors of society, the marginalized and the poor.”

The Bishops also note that the Philippines has made international commitments not to re-impose the death penalty. “Reviving it,” they say, “will go against this commitment and will put our country in a bad light insofar as our standing in the community of nations is concerned.”

Alternatives to re-imposing the death penalty

Instead of attempting to restore the death penalty, the Bishops call on Congress to focus its attention on working out a comprehensive response to the Covid-19 pandemic; to reforming the judicial and correctional systems; and to stamp out corruption in the various correctional institutions.

“Trusting in the help of our merciful God,” the Bishops write, “we at the CBCP-ECPPC are ready to dialogue with our legislators to explore with them ways and means to improve our criminal justice system and our ways of treating PDLs (persons deprived of liberty).”

They end their statement with the call, “Together let us stand for life and heal as one!”

10 August 2020, 14:12