Pacquiao pulls no punches on Vatican's death penalty stand

Philippine boxer, senator criticizes pope's catechism change opposing capital punishment under all circumstances
Pacquiao pulls no punches on Vatican's death penalty stand

Students at a Catholic university in Manila hold a demonstration to protest the proposed revival of capital punishment in the Philippines. (Photo by Jhun Dantes)

Boxing champ Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao, a Philippine senator who has been vocal about his Christian beliefs, has hit out at a Vatican statement last week against capital punishment.

The boxer said he has the scriptures to back his advocacy for the revival of the death penalty in the Philippines despite Pope Francis' pronouncement against capital punishment in its entirety.

Pacquiao said the Bible allows the death penalty for those who have committed heinous crimes. The death penalty is also in the Philippine Constitution, he added.

"It's not about us, what I think or what I want. It's in the Bible and also in our constitution, so there should be no problem," said the senator.

In a radio interview on Aug. 4, he said that the issue would be discussed in the Senate "so it can be explained thoroughly and everybody can be enlightened about faith."

The senator has been pressing for the approval of a law that will re-impose the death penalty in the country before the end of the year.

Capital punishment has been banned in the predominantly Catholic country since 2006.

Pacquiao, however, said cases of drug trafficking, rape with murder, kidnap-for-ransom, and robbery with murder deserved capital punishment.

Rodolfo Diamante of the Episcopal Commission on Prison and Pastoral Care of the Philippine bishops' conference struck back and called out the senator for his "wrong interpretation" of the Bible.

"It is unfortunate," said Diamanted, adding that, "such a wrong interpretation is dangerous" because it is "misleading the public."

"[Pacquiao] was elected by the people to protect and improve people's quality of life … not extinguish it," he said.

He advised the senator to ask his staff to do "solid research" before sharing his thoughts on any issue. 

The Vatican last week approved a change in the text of Catholic catechism that had previously accepted the death penalty "as a last recourse."

The new text acknowledged that the "dignity of a person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes."

Pope Francis is opposed to the death penalty, saying it is fundamentally against the teachings of Christ because it excludes the possibility of redemption, does not give justice to victims and feeds vengeance.

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In January last year, Pacquiao cited the Bible to defend the death penalty and said that even Jesus Christ was sentenced to death because the government had imposed it.

President Rodrigo Duterte is also keen on re-imposing the death penalty. In recent statements, the presidential palace said it would try "gentle persuasion" to convince senators to pass a bill that would do so.

The Lower House of Congress passed a bill reviving the death penalty last year. A counterpart bill from the Senate is needed for the proposed measure to become law.

Leonel Abasola contributed to this report.

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