From Mindanao, anti-death penalty pilgrims reaches Manila

From Mindanao, anti-death penalty pilgrims reaches Manila

Nuns join the “Lakbay Buhay” pilgrims as they flash thumbs down signs against the death penalty in the Church of Gesu at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, May 19, 2017. YEN OCAMPO

After 16 days, a group of anti-death penalty pilgrims who embarked on a Church-backed cross-country caravan march arrived on Friday at their final destination, Manila.

The marchers, led by Franciscan Fr. Robert Reyes, made their first stop at the Ateneo de Manila University wherein students tied white ribbons on their arms as a symbol of solidarity.

The Jesuit-run university has also covered its fence in white cloth— a symbolic gesture to remind the public of the value and dignity of every person.

Amid cheers, whistles, and chants of “kabuhayan, hindi kamatayan,” Ninian Sumadia, a 27-year old pilgrim, called on the government to reject death penalty because it’s “an ultimate human rights violation”.

“There is no study to support that death penalty will deter crimes. Instead, it will only spread the culture of violence,” she said.

For her part, 47-year old mother Juliet Cula Logan said that the capital punishment is anti-poor, adding that what the country needs is a good measure to address poverty.

“The poor like me will never be able to afford good legal defense in cases where we are sentenced with death by the courts,” Logan said.

As the 15 pilgrims entered the university campus, the bells of the Church of Gesu also rung to welcome them in Ateneo.

A Mass presided over by Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, ADMU president, was held with hundreds of people in attendance.

In his homily, he stressed that the idea that peace situation in the country would be improved by restoring death penalty just doesn’t stack up.

“The capital punishment is just like cutting the grass. But what we need is to pull out the roots of criminalities. We should take a closer look at the causes of our problems,”Villarin said.

The “Lakbay Buhay” caravan started in Cagayan de Oro City to drum up public awareness against the death penalty.

The marchers are also representing sectors such as the youth, workers, farmers, fishermen, persons with disabilities, and women.

On Sunday, May 21, they will be joined by thousands of people for a 5pm Mass at the University of Santo Tomas (UST).

They are also scheduled to troop to the Senate on May 24 to call on the senators to oppose the revival of the death penalty. CBCPNews