Church slams planned daily executions

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star
Church slams planned daily executions

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines yesterday condemned as barbaric President Rodrigo Duterte plan to execute five or six criminals daily if the death penalty is restored. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday condemned as barbaric President Duterte’s plan to execute five or six criminals daily if the death penalty is restored.

Duterte has made the revival of the death penalty a legislative priority as part of a brutal war on crime that has killed at least 5,300 people.

“There was death penalty before but nothing happened. Return that to me and I would do it every day: five or six (criminals). That’s for real,” Duterte said on Saturday.

A CBCP official said the Church “totally opposed” Duterte’s plan.

“The Philippines will be viewed as very barbaric,” Father Jerome Secillano, CBCP public affairs executive secretary, told AFP.

“It’s going to make the Philippines the capital of death penalty in the world,” Secillano added.

Meanwhile, Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel, South Cotabato opposed the government’s plan to reimpose the death penalty. “Life is precious. It is God’s gift. Humans have no right to kill,” Gutierrez said.

He said although convicted criminals have been found guilty in courts, they could still be rehabilitated to become better persons.

Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz was saddened by the President’s expression of his desire to kill people during the Christmas holidays.

“I feel sad when this was said by the President, especially at this time when we are celebrating the birth of Christ,” Cruz said.

Cruz, former CBCP president, condemned the Duterte administration’s brutal war on drugs, which has killed not only drug suspects but also innocent victims, including children.

He called for an end to extrajudicial killings in the country.

The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006 following fierce opposition from the Catholic Church, the religion of 80 percent of Filipinos.

Before assuming office in June, Duterte vowed to introduce executions by hanging, saying he did not want to waste bullets and believed snapping the spinal cord was more humane than a firing squad.

Duterte has said he viewed the death penalty not as a means to deter crime but for retribution.

The President’s allies in the House of Representatives pushed for the bill and said they would vote on it by January.

The United Nations’ human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a letter to the Philippine Congress this month that reviving the death penalty

would violate the country’s international obligations.

But on Saturday Duterte insisted executions were necessary to fight the drug scourge, which he said was “destroying” the nation.

While his aides dismiss his incendiary statements as hyperbole, rights advocates said Duterte’s remarks were alarming.

“Setting a quota for executions is just too much. One death is too much because we are talking about lives,” Amnesty International Philippines vice

chairman Romeo Cabarde told AFP.

Catholic leaders and rights defenders have instead urged the government to reform a slow and corrupt justice system, which they said was likely to send innocent people to death row.

Secillano said bishops planned to dissuade lawmakers from voting for the death penalty and would attend congressional debates next month.

“The death penalty is a shortcut. The government doesn’t want to go through any process to fix the penal system,” he said.


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