Church, activists fear reimposition of death penalty

Reintroduction will see many innocent and poor people executed in the Philippines, they say
Church, activists fear reimposition of death penalty

Prisoners at the country's national prison attend Sunday Mass. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

Church leaders and human rights advocates marked the anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in the Philippines on June 24 amid concerns that capital punishment may soon be re-imposed.

"Innocent people will inevitably be executed for as long as the death penalty exists in law," said Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the prison ministry of the Philippine bishops' conference.

Jesuit Father Silvino Borres, president of the Coalition Against Death Penalty, said that given the "imperfections" in the country's criminal justice system, the prospect of executing innocent people remains.

Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte announced this week his plan to revive capital punishment — death by hanging — which he said would serve as "retribution" for those who committed crimes.

The "death penalty to me is the retribution. It makes you pay for what you did," said Duterte.

Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a Catholic, signed a law abolishing capital punishment on June 24, 2006. 

Crimes that had been punishable by death included murder, rape, kidnapping and drug trafficking.

Diamante said the church will lead the lobby in Congress against the restoration of capital punishment. 

"We will also pursue a continuing public education program against the death penalty and for alternative options for life," he said. 

The long-time anti-death penalty campaigner said the proposal to restore the death sentence is "anti-poor" and works against the marginalized and the most vulnerable sectors of society. 

"Experience shows that most, if not all persons meted the death penalty are poor and uneducated, who cannot afford to retain prominent criminal lawyers and have no political connections," said Diamante. 

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