THE influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Thursday called on Filipinos to unite against moves to revive the death penalty, which President Rodrigo Duterte wants to use in his war against crime.
The CBCP president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbisbop Socrates Villegas, made the call a day after the House justice committee approved the bill restoring the death penalty for 21 “heinous crimes.”
“In resisting the threat of the restoration of the death penalty, we cannot be disunited or indifferent. On this pro-life issue let us truly unite. Come out and make a stand!” said the prelate in a statement posted at the CBCP website.
“This is a conscience call to stand up for life,” Villegas added.
Villegas pointed out that the death penalty is self-contradictory because it espouses the same posture of violence condemned by the state.
Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the CBCP Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, accused pro-death penalty congressmen of “trying to railroad” the passage of the death penalty measure, House Bill No. 1.
“Let us make a more forceful stand against the death penalty,” he said. “Now more than ever we need to act fast and swiftly to counteract the prevailing culture of death in our society.”
With the bill’s passage at the committee level, the measure will be debated for second reading in the plenary. Once the bill is approved on second reading, approval on third and final reading will only be a formality. The bill needs to go through the same process in the Senate.
The death penalty was abolished by the 1987 Constitution, only to be 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 have abolished the death penalty in their penal systems.
LP to oppose bill
Also on Thursday, Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon said he and other members of the Liberal Party would oppose the bill, pointing to the country’s weak legal system.
“Our less than ideal justice system can result in someone being executed when he was in fact innocent,” Drilon told reporters.
“We are not convinced the re-imposition of death penalty is a deterrence to crime … it takes years before someone is charged or convicted. By that time the people have already forgotten that the crime was committed and therefore, the desired deterrence when you impose a penalty becomes no longer effective,” he said.
“That goes back to our position that there must be reforms in our justice system before we even consider the re-imposition of death penalty because of the possibility of errors being committed, and you cannot correct the error once it is committed,” he added.
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, in a statement, said the approval of the bill was meant to please the President, even if there was “no evidence or a study showing that death penalty is an effective way to curb crime.”
Robredo noted that the Philippines is a signatory to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights—a pact that prohibits countries from restoring death penalty. WILLLIAM B. DEPASUPIL AND LLANESCA T. PANTI