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Bishops: Dialogue, not death penalty

Bishops: Dialogue, not death penalty

By CBCP News

August 7, 2020

Manila, Philippines

Catholic bishops are open for dialogue to improve the justice system as lawmakers resumed hearing on the reimposition of the death penalty in the country.

In a statement released Aug. 6, they stressed that exchange and cooperation are needed to move together towards more effective and humane justice and correctional systems.

While they maintained that the death penalty is immoral, the bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC) warned that the country’s “imperfect” justice system may lead to the conviction of the wrong person.

“We at the ECPPC are ready to dialogue with our legislators to explore with them ways and means to improve our criminal justice system and our ways of treating persons deprived of liberty (PDLs),” they said.

Among other reasons, the bishops also stressed that the capital punishment is tilted against the marginalized and the poor.

“Experience shows that most, if not all persons meted the death penalty are the poor and uneducated, who cannot afford prominent lawyers to defend them,” they said.

Instead of reviving the death penalty, the prelates asked the government to craft laws and implement the existing ones aimed at reforming the judicial and correctional systems “to make them more restorative and rehabilitative, rather then punitive”.

They also asked for an end to corruption in the various institutions that manage the jails and penitentiaries, “so that the basic human rights of our PDLs are respected”.

The House committee on justice started debates on the death penalty on Aug 5, around a week after President Duterte again asked lawmakers to reinstate capital punishment for drug-related crimes.

The clergy of the Archdiocese of Manila said they are “alarmed and disturbed” at the ease with which the lawmakers responded to the call of Duterte.

“We condemn the lack of independence and imprudence of some of them, who decided to immediately bow to the wishes of President Duterte by filing death penalty bills while we are still mired in this seemingly insurmountable crisis brought by Covid-19,” they clergymen said.

“We see such acts as betrayal of the people’s interests and an implicit support to the creeping authoritarian tendencies exuded by this administration,” they added.