THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is confident that life will eventually triumph over death even if the House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to reimpose the death penalty.
In a pastoral letter, CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Wednesday said that the passage of House Bill (HB) 4727 is tantamount to granting authorities “license to kill.”
But the prelate said that even as the Church grieves over the decision of 217 lawmakers, the bishops remain undeterred and will continue to vigorously and fearlessly oppose death penalty every step of the way
“We, your bishops, are overcome with grief but we are not defeated nor shall we be silenced,” Villegas said.
The CBCP also renewed its call to the faithful and all Filipinos who stand for life to continue the spirited opposition to the death penalty.
“We urge Catholic lawyers, judges and jurists to allow the gentleness of the Gospel of Life to illumine their reading and application of the law, so that their service to society as teachers and agents of the law and of justice may bring life,” it said.
“They may have won but it does not mean that they are right,” it added.
Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier said that the death penalty bill will face rough sailing in the Senate. The counterpart bill in the Upper Chamber is still at the committee level.
“It will have a hard time. I’m doing a personal counting in the course of our discussions and in my opinion, many of the senators are against it,” Lacson said in a radio interview.
The Senate version is authored, among others, by Senators Manny Pacquio, Vicente Sotto, Sherwin Gatchalian and Lacson.
Following the approval of HB 4727 on Tuesday, the ball is now in the Senate.
Bro. Rudy Diamante, executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, lambasted the lawmakers who voted in favor of the death
“I think they passed the bill based on a personal interest. There is no substantial reason for restoring the death penalty,” Diamante told the Church-run Radio Veritas.
But Diamante said the Church remains confident that majority of the senators will vote against the proposed return of the death penalty.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said reimposing death penalty constitutes an “internationally wrongful act.
The CHR cited a study conducted by international law expert and Senior Counsel at the New South Wales Bar Christopher Ward.
“[The study] clarifies that the Philippines has exercised its sovereignty to become party to international treaties which absolutely prohibit the re-introduction of the death penalty by the Philippines,” it said.
Ward’s study, entitled “In Defense of the Right to Life: International Law and Death Penalty in the Philippines,” considered the 1987 Philippine Constitution, International Law, state practice and domestic jurisprudence.
“[It concluded] that it is impermissible for the Philippines to withdraw from those treaties,” the commission said.
The CHR said the proposed laws breach international law because they apply to crimes that are not “the most serious crimes.”
As qualified by the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the United Nations Economic and Social Council, “the most serious crimes” shall be limited to crimes that do not go beyond international crimes with lethal or extremely grave consequences, the CHR added.
“The Commission believes that the global momentum on the abolition of the death penalty will continue, and that the Philippines, in this regard, must stop its spiral into such a regressive and illegal policy,” it said.
The University of the Philippines Law Student Government (UP-LSG) also opposed the proposed revival of the death penalty.
The group cited several cases from the Supreme Court that backs the CHR’s stand.
“The country is bound by generally accepted principles of international law, which are considered to be automatically part of our own laws. The Philippines is State Party to the…ICCPR, ratified by the Philippines on October 23, 1986,” it said.
“We call upon our lawmakers in the house majority seriously reconsider their stance regarding the death penalty bill in light of all the valid arguments against it,” the group said.
Students from the Ateneo de Manila University and Miriam College, accompanied by former government officials, took to the streets to express their opposition to the death penalty bill.
They convened along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City and urged drivers of passing vehicles to “honk for justice.”
With them was former Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman.
“We are hoping that all who care for human lives, all those who are for the rights for every person to live will urge the Senate to hear our voices objecting to the death penalty bill,” Soliman said.
“To the senators, you promised to be the voice of the Filipino people and now, listen to us, we are against the killings, we are against the death penalty which seeks to claim the lives of our countrymen,” she added.
Former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson and former Akbayan Representative Etta Rosales also joined the protest.
ADMU President Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin believes that the lawmakers who voted for the reinstatement of the death penalty were pressured by the threat of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that they will be stripped of their posts if they will vote against the measure.
“The next move is to ask the senators to hear their consciences rather than these forces that are at play right now,” he said.
WITH A REPORT FROM DEMPSEY REYES