Filipino group wants church to back death penalty

Bishops rebuff appeal by anti-crime watchdog to support legislation to re-impose capital punishment
Filipino group wants church to back death penalty

Dante Jimenez, chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, talks with the media after meeting with Philippines Catholic bishops on March 13. (Photo supplied)

An appeal by an anti-crime watchdog in the Philippines to the country's Catholic bishops to support the re-imposition of the death penalty has fallen on deaf ears.

Church officials said they would continue to speak against a proposed bill in Congress that will reinstate capital punishment.

"You have to understand that the church preaches about hope," said Father Jerome Secillano of the bishops' conference during a meeting with leaders of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on March 13.

"If you expect the church to support the death penalty, that's actually cutting that iota of hope," said the priest.

The group, which is composed mostly of families of victims of crimes, appealed to the bishops for "understanding."

"We beg that the [bishops] also look after the welfare of our victims," read a letter handed by the group to officials of the bishops' conference.

Dante Jimenez, chairman of VACC, said the death penalty "if judiciously, religiously and consistently implemented, could benefit our people in maintaining peace and order."

Jimenez said those against the death penalty offered no new arguments to support their position. He blamed church leaders for the moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty. 

"Pressure by the Catholic Church derailed the death penalty law implementation …. The envisioned deterrent component of the law was never realized because of radical opposition," said Jimenez.

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan said the anti-crime watchdog "may have the best of intentions, but the ends do not justify the means."

"We should be very careful in dealing with lives. We might commit a mistake that will result in the death of an innocent," said the prelate.

After the meeting Jimenez said he hopes the bishops will respect the proposed bill if it becomes law. "What is important is that every institution should be respected," he said.

Father Secillano said the bishops would respect the position of the anti-crime group.

"We agreed to have mutual respect. They have an advocacy, but the church also has its teachings. In this world of pluralism, different voices should be heard," said the priest.

The meeting came a week after the Lower House of Congress passed the proposal to impose the death penalty on seven drug-related offenses.

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