THE usually quiet Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, on Thursday broke his silence on moves by Congress to reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes.
Tagle issued Circular No.12017-05, entitled “An Invitation to Reflect, Pray and Act” addressed to the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of Manila, explaining the reasons why the Church opposes the death penalty.
According to him, studies worldwide show that the threat of punishment by death has not reduced criminality. The best approach, he added, is to address the roots of crime.
Offenders, he said, were victims of circumstances brought about by the loss of moral values, injustice, inequality, poverty, lack of access to food, education, jobs and housing, proliferation of weapons, drugs, pornography, and loss of respect for sexuality, among others.
“To help solve these roots of criminality, the Church and the state need to protect and strengthen the basic unit of society, which is the family,” Tagle said.
He added that death penalty may legitimize the use of violence to deal with every wrongdoing or may be applied to an innocent person.
The prelate noted that what is needed is an honest and upright judicial and penal system.
“We need to reform institutions so they would safeguard justice while preventing the spread of a culture of violence. Penalties are not imposed for vengeance but for the correction of offenders and the good of society,” Tagle said
“A culture of violence dehumanizes. A culture of justice, integrity, and hope heals,” he added.
Tagle stressed that life is sacred because it’s God’s gift to humanity, and thus nobody has the right to take it away.
“This is the reason why an ethic of life, a culture of life, is inconsistent with abortion, euthanasia, human trafficking, mutilation, and violence against innocent and vulnerable persons,” he said. “Before God the source of life, we are humble. We cannot pretend to be gods.”
Also on Thursday, the Church-run Radio Veritas also launched an online petition against death penalty.
“Life must be respected. Only God has the full authority to take one’s life,” said Radio Veritas president Fr. Anton C.T. Pascual.
The station aims to get one million signatures to express the public’s opposition against the restoration of death penalty. Supporters can access the petition at www.veritas846.ph/chooselife/.
Last year, the House justice committee passed the bill seeking to reimpose the death penalty via a 12-6 vote, sending the measure to the plenary for second and third reading.
The proposed “Death Penalty Law” covers 21 “heinous” offenses such as treason, qualified piracy, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, infanticide, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with violence, destructive arson, plunder, and dangerous drug importation. Executions may be carried out by hanging, firing squad or lethal injection.
The death penalty was abolished in 1986 but was restored in 1994 by former President Fidel Ramos with the enactment of Republic Act 7659 or the Death Penalty Law.
It was again abolished in 2006 by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
According to the International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care, 124 out of 194 countries had abolished the death penalty.