JUST like its stand on defending the life of the unborn, even in the form of a vulnerable embryo, the Roman Catholic Church has never been anything but Pro-Life and against the death penalty.
This was reiterated by Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) spokesman, Bishop Deogracias Yñiguez, in a phone interview on Radyo Inquirer’s “Kumpadres” public-affairs program.
The bishop was reacting to suggestions during the radio interview that Beijing’s then scheduled execution of three Filipino drug mules should be countered with the same treatment for the many Chinese citizens now in Philippine jails for drug offenses, including shabu manufacturing.
But this could happe n only if the death penalty were restored in the Philippines.
Bishop Ynigues said in Tagalog, “The Catholic Church was never in favour of the death penalty. We believe in restorative justice. If we put a criminal in prison, we give him a chance to change his ways. If there’s a death penalty, you never give the person any chance [to atone and win forgiveness].”
Prison Pastoral Care
Similar views and explanation of the Catholic position were expressed by the CBCP’s Commission on Prison Pastoral Care’s Executive Secretary, Rodolfo Diamante, earlier reported in CBCP News.
Diamante said reimposition of the death penalty could aggravate the problem of injustice in our country.
He said, in the CBCP News report, that the Philippines’ dysfunctional justice system may lead to the conviction of the wrong person.
“With the kind of justice system we have, only the poor people will be penalized,” Diamante said.
The CBCP official said even the advocates of death penalty admitted that the country has an imperfect criminal justice system “so I don’t understand why they want it back.”
“With the kind of justice system that we have they will just arrest any ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’ to be able to say that they have something… or those that will be arrested are only the poor people,” he said.
“That is happening in the system and they (death penalty advocates) themselves said that.”
Diamante called on the authorities to instead look into a deeper solution to the problem of heinous crimes instead of looking for an immediate one.
“It’s about time that they look at the problem of enforcing the law instead of looking at death penalty… Those pushing this want a quick fix solution (to the problem),” said Diamante.
It would be better, he said, if the authorities would focus on strengthening the three stages crime prevention.
“Enforcing the law, the certainty of arrest and then you prosecute. As long as these are not strengthened, we will always have people being able to run away with the crime that they have committed,” he said.
Amid a recent spate of heinous crimes, some groups and even senators are calling for the revival of the capital punishment.
Volunteer against Crime and Corruption (VACC) founding chairman Dante Jimenez said the current situation warrants the imposition of death penalty.
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri believes that the death penalty could deter the commission of terrible crimes in the country and has filed a Senate bill.
It was back in June 2006 when the death penalty was abolished by then president Gloria Arroyo just days before her trip to Vatican for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. (CBCPNews)
Holy See declaration
On June 2001, the Holy See issued the following declaration on the death penalty at the First World Congress in Strasbourg:
The Holy See has consistently sought the abolition of the death penalty and his Holiness Pope John Paul II has personally and indiscriminately appealed on numerous occasions in order that such sentences should be commuted to a lesser punishment, which may offer time and incentive for the reform of the guilty, hope to the innocent and safeguard the well-being of civil society itself and of those individuals who through no choice of theirs have become deeply involved in the fate of those condemmed to death.
The Pope had most earnestly hoped and prayed that a worldwide moratorium might have been among the spiritual and moral benefits of the Great Jubilee which he proclaimed for the Year Two Thousand, so that dawn of the Third Millennium would have been remembered forever as the pivotal moment in history when the community of nations finally recognised that it now possesses the means to defend itself without recourse to punishments which are “cruel and unnecessary”. This hope remains strong but it is unfulfilled, and yet there is encouragement in the growing awareness that “it is time to abolish the death penalty”.
It is surely more necessary than ever that the inalienable dignity of human life be universally respected and recognised for its immeasurable value. The Holy See has engaged itself in the pursuit of the abolition of capital punishment and an integral part of the defence of human life at every stage of its development and does so in defiance of any assertion of a culture of death.
Where the death penalty is a sign of desperation, civil society is invited to assert its belief in a justice that salvages hope from the ruin of the evils which stalk our world. The universal abolition of the death penalty would be a courageous reaffirmation of the belief that humankind can be successful in dealing with criminality and of our refusal to succumb to despair before such forces, and as such it would regenerate new hope in our very humanity.
Strasbourg, 21 June 2001.