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Statement on the World Day Against the Death Penalty

Statement on the World Day Against the Death Penalty

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (CBCP-ECPPC) reiterates our strong opposition to capital punishment.

1. The death penalty violates the inherent dignity of a human person, which is not lost despite the commission of a crime. No person, no matter how evil he is perceived to be, is beyond reformation. Pope Francis has exhorted countless times that capital punishment is an offense “against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, which contradicts God’s plan for man and society” and “does not render justice to the victims, but rather only fosters vengeance”. In his latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti he said, “The death penalty is inadequate from a moral standpoint and no longer necessary from that of penal justice”, that “there can be no stepping back from this position” as he clearly stated that “the death penalty is inadmissible, and the Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide.” He added that; “All Christians and people of good will are today called to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, legal or illegal, in all its forms, but also to work for the improvement of prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their freedom.”

2. The death penalty does not deter crime; there are no conclusive studies, local or foreign, to support this argument. On the contrary, a 2009 research found out that the death penalty does not add any significant deterrent effect above that of long-term imprisonment. Thus, it is merely speculative.

3. The death sentence is irreversible; once carried out, there is no possibility for rectifying an erroneous judgment by an imperfect system.

4. The death penalty is nothing but vengeance and punishment. True justice must be restorative, never merely punitive. It should give the person the chance to change for the better, no matter how slim the chance may be.

5. The death penalty is anti-poor and marginalized. Experience shows that most, if not all persons meted the death penalty are poor and uneducated, who cannot afford quality legal representation to defend them.

Instead, we call for:

1. The elimination of the culture of death, violence and a “throw-away” attitude prevailing today.

2. The enactment of laws and effective implementation of existing ones to modernize and reform our criminal justice system to make it more restorative and rehabilitative rather than punitive, to enable our convicted PDLs to be truly reformed and be ready to reintegrate to society;

3. Government to work at eliminating graft and corruption in all institutions, especially in our jails and penitentiaries.

4. The upholding of the basic human rights of our PDLs and afford them the proper treatment in accordance with international laws and standards.

5. The State to focus its attention at formulating concrete solutions to combat the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic and to alleviate the plight of the poor who are most adversely affected by this pandemic.

6. An effective dialogue with our civil leaders to explore ways and means to improve our criminal justice system especially our corrections pillar to better care for our incarcerated brothers and sisters.

We join in solidarity with all groups in the clamor for the total abolition of the death penalty worldwide and the adoption of a form of justice that promotes healing and restoration of the dignity of the human person.

+JOEL Z. BAYLON, D.D.
Bishop of Legazpi
Chairman, CBCP-ECPPC

October 10, 2020

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