The clergy of the Archdiocese of Manila said the ease with which lawmakers responded to the call to re-impose death penalty in the country is “alarming.”
In a statement dated August 4, the Manila clergy said while they agree that it is the duty of legislators to enact laws and State policies, they expressed their consternation to the lack of independence and imprudence of some of the lawmakers.
“We see such acts as betrayal of the people’s interests and an implicit support to the creeping authoritarian tendencies exuded by this administration,” the statement read.
While they agree that crime deserves punishment and that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes, the Manila priests cited different reasons why they object to its re-imposition.
One of the reasons they cited is that death penalty does not effectively deter crime.
“What deters crime is the certainty of conviction and the imposition of punishment. What the country needs, therefore, is a reform of the criminal justice system with the eradication of crooked, corrupt and unprincipled practices in law enforcement agencies, judiciary and penal systems,” the priests said.
Death penalty, they said, is also “biased and unfair” even likening it to the dreaded war on drugs which victimizes mostly the poor.
The Manila clergy added that death penalty simply legalizes the extermination of the marginalized in the society.
They said death penalty is also an unjustified form of retribution.
“We believe that only God has the right to take life away from us. Hence, we condemn criminals who took the lives of their victims and they must be punished for it,” said the priests.
But punishment, they said, should not anymore include death saying there are other means already available to punish criminals and to protect society from them.
The Manila priests also cited the fallibility and imperfection of the country’s justice system as another reason why they reject capital punishment.
They said as pastors, they recognize the heartache, distress, anguish experienced by victims of violent crimes; deeply empathized with them, and want to help them in their search for justice.
“However, our support for victims and their families does not oblige us to push for the re-imposition of the penalty of death,” the clergy said.
Instead, they said, they want to call the attention of the country’s leaders and lawmakers to make every effort to “establish a system of justice that brings restoration and harmony and not death.”
The House Committee on Justice on Wednesday revived the hearings on death penalty bills weeks after President Duterte called for its re-imposition.