Filipino 'running priest' Father Robert Reyes delivers a homily during the launch of a pro-life campaign in February. (Photo by Maria Tan)
A priest-social activist has called on Philippine church leaders who have been silent about the proposed revival of capital punishment to speak out and "save the country."
"The death penalty is not only killing people, but killing democracy itself," said Father Robert Reyes, known as the "running priest" for his penchant to run for his advocacies.
The priest said the death penalty is "symbolic of the dying democracy that we are all trying to save."
"It's not the death penalty, it's the dying democracy, the dying religion of prophets, the vibrant religion of those who are not afraid to offer their lives for the truth," he told reporters.
Father Reyes said he is calling on his "older brothers in the church to speak out now."
"We don't have the luxury of time. Democracy is dying in the country. It is dying. Very soon if we don't do anything a real dictator will rule this land," he said.
The priest has been vocal in his criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte's policies, including the proposed revival of capital punishment, the lowering of the age criminal liability for minors, and the killings linked to the government's war against drugs.
Father Reyes appealed to Catholics to join another "Walk for Life," a nationwide march from May 4 to 24 that will dramatize opposition to the proposed revival of capital punishment.
"This walk is important because many have become silent," he said, adding that even the church is accused of being afraid.
"In this walk, we will come out from our caves. We will creep out of our caves and walk towards the light," he said.
Father Reyes reminded Filipinos of the late Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila who "always spoke out whenever there was a wrong."
"This is the time for all of us to leave the cave of our reluctance, hesitance, cowardice, and come out," he said, adding that, "the prophets in all of us should come out."
"This is a time for prophets to speak out again," said the priest.
The 21-day march from the city of Cagayan de Oro in the southern region of Mindanao to the Senate building in Manila aims to convince senators not to pass the death penalty bill.
In March, the Lower House of Congress passed its version of the bill that will impose capital punishment on drug-related offenses to the dismay of human rights groups and church leaders.