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Philippines

Filipino seminarians fire shot against lethal injections

Catholic seminary network voices growing fears Duterte allies in Congress will reintroduce death penalty

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Filipino seminarians fire shot against lethal injections

Philippine lawmakers are being asked to reintroduce lethal injections for people convicted of drug crimes. (Photo: Jire Carreon)

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A group of seminarians in the Philippines have appealed to lawmakers to reject repeated calls from President Rodrigo Duterte to reinstate the death penalty.

The death penalty is “inadmissible” as capital punishment because it attacks the inviolability and dignity of the human person, the Seminarians’ Network of the Philippines (SemNet) said in a Sept. 14 statement.

Such calls from the president are abhorrent in the eyes of God and to a society battling to overcome a pandemic that is killing indiscriminately, it said.   

“The Catholic Church teaches the inherent and inalienable dignity of the human person as created in the image and likeness of God,” said the group, which was created in response to a request for theological arguments against capital punishment by the Coalition against the Death Penalty headed by Jesuit Father Silvino Borres.

Fears are growing that capital punishment could soon be reintroduced after Duterte repeated past calls to lawmakers to revive lethal injections for drug crimes during his July 27 State of the Nation Address.

Capital punishment was abolished by former president Gloria Arroyo in 2006.

SemNet warned the lawmakers to put the sanctity of human life above all else.

“God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy life,” said the group.

The seminarians also said that extrajudicial killings of drug suspects had increased by 50 percent during the pandemic.

They pointed to figures from Human Rights Watch, which said 155 people have been killed since June. Before the lockdowns began in March, Philippine police had killed 103 individuals between December 2019 and March 2020.

SemNet and other church groups believe the actual number could be more.

“Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the government, instead of prioritizing public health and economic concerns, prioritizes the restoration of the death penalty to eliminate illegal drugs in the Philippines. Reinstating a law which seeks to destroy human life, rather than develop, preserve and reform it, is never right, even imprudent in this current situation,” the group added.

“We appeal to our legislators to focus their efforts on responding to the pandemic, consider the repercussions of the death penalty and actively push for reforms in the justice and penal system. We implore our legislators to engage in a conscientious dialogue with our church leaders and form the consciences of the faithful in the light of the gospel.”

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