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Philippine Church leaders decry return of death penalty

MANILA (UCAN): Church leaders in the Philippines have warned against any moves to pass a law that will revive the imposition of capital punishment. The Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care issued a statement on June 20 reminding newly elected legislators of their responsibility “to defend human life.”
Moves to revive the death penalty failed in the last Congress, but Church leaders said recent statements made by new legislators on the re-imposition of the death penalty were disturbing.
“This is disturbing because it strongly implies that the current set of elected leaders believe in killing as a ‘solution’ to the nation’s peace and order problems,” Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said.
“They have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life,” he argued.
“We argue that there are other more deeply-rooted reasons for a lack of peace and order in our society that leaders have failed to appreciate and acknowledge,” Diamante said.
He said Church leaders maintain that capital punishment is “an affront to the human dignity of both those on whom it is inflicted and that in whose name it is employed.”
Diamante appealed to legislators to resolve to live the “Gospel of Life fully and faithfully.”
Political leaders, however, expressed optimism that the death penalty would make a comeback in the next Congress.
“In the new Senate, there’s a possibility of 13 (votes for the death penalty) for high-level drug trafficking alone,” Senate president, Vicente Sotto III, said in a statement.
Congressional allies of the president, Rodrigo Duterte, have consistently pressed for the reinstatement of capital punishment.
However, opposition senator, Leila de lima, said the solution in fighting criminality should be done through legislation and judicial reform.
“In these times where great powers are concentrated on a single human being who with mere words—God forbid—can masterfully orchestrate a holocaust, we should be ever vigilant, ever firm with our stand against its re-imposition,” the legislator said.
De Lima’s statement was read as Philippine Church leaders marked the 13th anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty on 24 June 2006.
“In a country where the poor outnumber the wealthy by a mile, socio-economic realities have skewed the implementation of the law on death penalty against the former,” she said.
She pointed out that despite seven executions from 1998 to 1999, the crime rate increased by 15.3 per cent.
The senator also said that even the Philippine Supreme Court has admitted that the courts had a judicial error rate of 71.77 per cent when the death penalty was still in force.
Although the death penalty was abolished under the 1986 constitution, the charter gave Congress the power to reinstate it for heinous crimes.
Capital punishment returned under the administration of former president, Fidel Ramos, but was abolished again under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The Philippines is also a signatory to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which commits countries to abolishing the death penalty.

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