CBCP to push fight vs death penalty


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.

Wrongful act

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.



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  1. Jose Samilin on

    The CBCP and its President Bishop Socrates Villigas, Bishop Oscar Cruz and other clergy, ADMU President Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, former CHR Chairperson Etta Rosales and others have been opposing on the basis of single common sentiment, as it is a wrongful death or life is sacred and inviolable, on the author of life is God and only God has an absolute power to take life. This position is so absolute that this is more to secular humanism than to deeper penetration into the gospel, according to Avery Cardinal Dulles, who conducted a study on Capital Punishment, despite sociological and legal questions inevitably impinge upon any such reflection, the question has to be answered primarily in terms of revelation, as it comes to us through Scripture and tradition, interpreted with the guidance of the ecclesiastical magisterium.

    Some Catholics, going beyond the bishops and the Pope, maintain that the death penalty, like abortion and euthanasia, is a violation of the right to life and an unauthorized usurpation by human beings of God’s sole lordship over life and death. Did not the Declaration of Independence, they ask, describe the right to life as “unalienable”?

    While sociological and legal questions inevitably impinge upon any such reflection, I am here addressing the subject as a theologian. At this level the question has to be answered primarily in terms of revelation, as it comes to us through Scripture and tradition, interpreted with the guidance of the ecclesiastical magisterium.

    In the Old Testament the Mosaic Law specifies no less than thirty-six capital offenses calling for execution by stoning, burning,
    decapitation, or strangulation. Included in the list are idolatry, magic, blasphemy, violation of the sabbath, murder, adultery, bestiality, pederasty, and incest. The death penalty was considered especially fitting as a punishment for murder since in his covenant with Noah God had laid down the principle, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image” (Genesis 9:6). In many cases God is portrayed as deservedly punishing culprits with death, as happened to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16). In other cases individuals such as Daniel and Mordecai are God’s agents in bringing a just death upon guilty persons.

    In the New Testament the right of the State to put criminals to death seems to be taken for granted. Jesus himself refrains from using violence. He rebukes his disciples for wishing to call down fire from heaven to punish the Samaritans for their lack of hospitality (Luke 9:55). Later he admonishes Peter to put his sword in the scabbard rather than resist arrest (Matthew 26:52). At no point, however, does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishment. In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, “He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die” (Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10, referring to Exodus 2l:17; cf. Leviticus 20:9). When Pilate calls attention to his authority to crucify him, Jesus points out that Pilate’s power comes to him from above that is to say, from God (John 19:11). Jesus commends the good thief on the cross next to him, who has admitted that he and his fellow thief are receiving the due reward of their deeds (Luke 23:41).

    The early Christians evidently had nothing against the death penalty. They approve of the divine punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira when they are rebuked by Peter for their fraudulent action (Acts 5:1-11). The Letter to the Hebrews makes an argument from the fact that “a man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses” (10:28). Paul repeatedly refers to the connection between sin and death. He writes to the Romans, with an apparent reference to the death penalty, that the magistrate who holds authority “does not bear the sword in vain; for he is the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). No passage in the New Testament disapproves of the death penalty.
    Turning to Christian tradition, we may note that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment, even though some of them such as St. Ambrose exhort members of the clergy not to pronounce capital sentences or serve as executioners. To answer the objection that the first commandment forbids killing, St. Augustine writes in The City of God:

    The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows certain exceptions, as when God authorizes killing by a general law or when He gives an explicit commission to an individual for a limited time. Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” to wage war at God’s bidding, or for the representatives of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to law or the rule of rational justice.

    In the Middle Ages a number of canonists teach that ecclesiastical courts should refrain from the death penalty and that civil courts should impose it only for major crimes. But leading canonists and theologians assert the right of civil courts to pronounce the death penalty for very grave offenses such as murder and treason. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus invoke the authority of Scripture and patristic tradition, and give arguments from reason.
    Giving magisterial authority to the death penalty, Pope Innocent III required disciples of Peter Waldo seeking reconciliation with the Church to accept the proposition: “The secular power can, without mortal sin, exercise judgment of blood, provided that it punishes with justice, not out of hatred, with prudence, not precipitation.” In the high Middle Ages and early modern times the Holy See authorized the Inquisition to turn over heretics to the secular arm for execution. In the Papal States the death penalty was imposed for a variety of offenses. The Roman Catechism, issued in 1566, three years after the end of the Council of Trent, taught that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to civil authorities and that the use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to the fifth commandment.

    In modern times Doctors of the Church such as Robert Bellarmine and Alphonsus Liguori held that certain criminals should be punished by death. Venerable authorities such as Francisco de Vitoria, Thomas More, and Francisco Suárez agreed. John Henry Newman, in a letter to a friend, maintained that the magistrate had the right to bear the sword, and that the Church should sanction its use, in the sense that Moses, Joshua, and Samuel used it against abominable crimes

    Throughout the first half of the twentieth century the consensus of Catholic theologians in favor of capital punishment in extreme cases remained solid, as may be seen from approved textbooks and encyclopedia articles of the day. The Vatican City State from 1929 until 1969 had a penal code that included the death penalty for anyone who might attempt to assassinate the pope. Pope Pius XII, in an important allocution to medical experts, declared that it was reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life in expiation of their crimes.

    Summarizing the verdict of Scripture and tradition, we can glean some settled points of doctrine. It is agreed that crime deserves punishment in this life and not only in the next. In addition, it is agreed that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes and that this punishment may, in serious cases, include the sentence of death.
    Yet, as we have seen, a rising chorus of voices in the Catholic community has raised objections to capital punishment. Some take the absolutist position that because the right to life is sacred and inviolable, the death penalty is always wrong. The respected Italian Franciscan Gino Concetti, writing in L’Osservatore Romano in 1977, made the following powerful statement:

    In light of the word of God, and thus of faith, life all human life is sacred and untouchable. No matter how heinous the crimes . . . [the criminal] does not lose his fundamental right to life, for it is primordial, inviolable, and inalienable, and thus comes under the power of no one whatsoever.

    If this right and its attributes are so ab solute, it is because of the image which, at creation, God impressed on human nature itself. No force, no violence, no passion can erase or destroy it. By virtue of this divine image, man is a person endowed with dignity and rights.

    To warrant this radical revision one might almost say reversal of the Catholic tradition, Father Concetti and others explain that the Church from biblical times until our own day has failed to perceive the true significance of the image of God in man, which implies that even the terrestrial life of each individual person is sacred and inviolable. In past centuries, it is alleged, Jews and Christians failed to think through the consequences of this revealed doctrine. They were caught up in a barbaric culture of violence and in an absolutist theory of political power, both handed down from the ancient world. But in our day, a new recognition of the dignity and inalienable rights of the human person has dawned. Those who recognize the signs of the times will move beyond the outmoded doctrines that the State has a divinely delegated power to kill and that criminals forfeit their fundamental human rights. The teaching on capital punishment must today undergo a dramatic development corresponding to these new insights.

    This abolitionist position has a tempting simplicity. But it is not really new. It has been held by sectarian Christians at least since the Middle Ages. Many pacifist groups, such as the Waldensians, the Quakers, the Hutterites, and the Mennonites, have shared this point of view. But, like pacifism itself, this absolutist interpretation of the right to life found no echo at the time among Catholic theologians, who accepted the death penalty as consonant with Scripture, tradition, and the natural law.

    The mounting opposition to the death penalty in Europe since the Enlightenment has gone hand in hand with a decline of faith in eternal life. In the nineteenth century the most consistent supporters of capital punishment were the Christian churches, and its most consistent opponents were groups hostile to the churches. When death came to be understood as the ultimate evil rather than as a stage on the way to eternal life, utilitarian philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham found it easy to dismiss capital punishment as “useless annihilation.”

    Many governments in Europe and elsewhere have eliminated the death penalty in the twentieth century, often against the protests of religious believers. While this change may be viewed as moral progress, it is probably due, in part, to the evaporation of the sense of sin, guilt, and retributive justice, all of which are essential to biblical religion and Catholic faith. The abolition of the death penalty in formerly Christian countries may owe more to secular humanism than to deeper penetration into the gospel.

    Arguments from the progress of ethical consciousness have been used to promote a number of alleged human rights that the Catholic Church consistently rejects in the name of Scripture and tradition. The magisterium appeals to these authorities as grounds for repudiating divorce, abortion, homosexual relations, and the ordination of women to the priesthood. If the Church feels herself bound by Scripture and tradition in these other areas, it seems inconsistent for Catholics to proclaim a “moral revolution” on the issue of capital punishment.

    The Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty. I know of no official statement from popes or bishops, whether in the past or in the present, that denies the right of the State to execute offenders at least in certain extreme cases. The United States bishops, in their majority statement on capital punishment, conceded that “Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the State has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime.” Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, in his famous speech on the “Consistent Ethic of Life” at Fordham in 1983, stated his concurrence with the “classical position” that the State has the right to inflict capital punishment.

    Although Cardinal Bernardin advocated what he called a “consistent ethic of life,” he made it clear that capital punishment should not be equated with the crimes of abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. Pope John Paul II spoke for the whole Catholic tradition when he proclaimed in Evangelium Vitae (1995) that “the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral.” But he wisely included in that statement the word “innocent.” He has never said that every criminal has a right to live nor has he denied that the State has the right in some cases to execute the guilty.

    Catholic authorities justify the right of the State to inflict capital punishment on the ground that the State does not act on its own authority but as the agent of God, who is supreme lord of life and death. In so holding they can properly appeal to Scripture. Paul holds that the ruler is God’s minister in executing God’s wrath against the evildoer (Romans 13:4). Peter admonishes Christians to be subject to emperors and governors, who have been sent by God to punish those who do wrong (1 Peter 2:13). Jesus, as already noted, apparently recognized that Pilate’s authority over his life came from God (John 19:11).

    Pius XII, in a further clarification of the standard argument, holds that when the State, acting by its ministerial power, uses the death penalty, it does not exercise dominion over human life but only recognizes that the criminal, by a kind of moral suicide, has deprived himself of the right to life. In the Pope’s words,
    Even when there is question of the execution of a condemned man, the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. In this case it is reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned person of the enjoyment of life in expiation of his crime when, by his crime, he has already dispossessed himself of his right to life.

    In light of all this it seems safe to conclude that the death penalty is not in itself a violation of the right to life. The real issue for Catholics is to determine the circumstances under which that penalty ought to be applied. It is appropriate, I contend, when it is necessary to achieve the purposes of punishment and when it does not have disproportionate evil effects. I say “necessary” because I am of the opinion that killing should be avoided if the purposes of punishment can be obtained by bloodless means.

    The purposes of criminal punishment are rather unanimously delineated in the Catholic tradition. Punishment is held to have a variety of ends that may conveniently be reduced to the following four: rehabilitation, defense against the criminal, deterrence, and retribution.


  2. CBCP…gives nothing for the country but demands a lot from the country….ever since Spain colonized our country the priests are always there destabilizing our country.

  3. Josefa Brombach on

    In contrast to animals, man is not determined by instincts. He is perceptive, so he can correct misconduct, so no one can impose the death penalty on another person.
    You know that.
    If, however, the arguments go out, then you attack something else in person, usually with moral misconduct, which is only a fraction of your
    Opponents to repay.
    This is the way people act with a fascist-like personality.
    By the way, I do not belong to any denomination, I am a Christian who does not fit into any association.

  4. CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, who are they? What do they think of themselves? Are they the 16.6 million? If not, wait then for the next election. And shut up then, Damasos. Are you better than the 16.6 million?

  5. aladin g. villacorte on

    Given a super majority in the House the result of the voting is a foregone conclusion. Not surprisingly, also, the legislators who joined the majority are mostly Catholics, products of Catholic schools and practicing Catholics. Many are simply Sunday Catholics. The same legislators who voted into law the reproductive health bill.

    There’s no such thing as a Catholic vote. Let’s get real – the people who fill churches to the brim, who spent hours praying on their knees, who give generously to charities, are the same people who maltreat their katulong, cheat on their wives, and steal the people’s money.

    Where did the Church go wrong?

    • Jose Samilin on

      To answer your question, the Church remain holy despite the wrongdoing of the leadership, they become unwise since they are still humans and prone to commit mistakes. The Church remain holy because the head is Christ and the Church is His Mystical body. The divine characteristic of the church founded by Christ is unique that only the Catholic Church can have that claim: the church is One, the church is Holy, the church is Catholic (universal), and the church is Apostolic.

  6. Robert James on

    THE CBCP mission is simple to keep people ignorant, poor and misinformed so that they can continue to fool the masses of thier corruptions, pedophilia and other abuses. (you can watch aljazeera’s 101 east documentary: sins of the father, if you are still one those ignorant people that think this people are holy and divine. Nope they are just like you who needs to eat, go to bathroom (pee, defacate) and also carnal longings and since they are not allowed to have wives (kuno) so they do it with children and the innocent) But we have enough of their bullshit and they should be taxed and everybody knows that they run the biggest land holdings in the Philippines and involved in so many businesses and the tuition fees in their school is so high and they are tax free. So CBCP: NO taxation no representation. And maybe you are ignorant but the church and the states is separate, Clean your houses that has a lot of maggots.