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Philippine church leaders wary of death penalty support

Numbers wanting to see re-imposition of capital punishment appear to be growing, poll suggests

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Updated: April 28, 2017 08:21 AM GMT
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Philippine church leaders wary of death penalty support

Filipino Catholics carry anti-death penalty placards during a "Walk for Life" march in Manila in February. (ucanews.com photo)

 

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Church leaders in the Philippines expressed caution over the growing number of people who have signified support for the revival of capital punishment.

"Overwhelming support for [the death penalty] does not translate to a better Philippines," said Father Jerome Secillano of the public affairs office of the Catholic bishops.

At least three out of every five Filipinos favor the re-imposition of the death penalty for drug-related crimes, according to a survey by pollster Social Weather Stations.

The survey, conducted from March 25 to 28, found that 61 percent of respondents "strongly or somewhat approve" of a pending bill in Congress that aims to re-impose capital punishment.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has pressed for a law that will impose the death penalty on drug-related offenses.

On March 1, the Lower House of Congress passed a proposed measure that will allow death for 21 "drug-related heinous crimes."

While the country's senators remain divided over the issue, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the death penalty bill was "dead" in the Senate with 13 senators "likely to vote against it."

Father Secillano said the country would not need to impose capital punishment "with a reformed and effective criminal justice system."

The priest said there are underlying issues not reflected on surveys, like the "flawed criminal justice system, corrupt law enforcers, and ineffective penal system."

"These need to be addressed so that we won't be killing people who may possibly be not guilty after all," said Father Secillano.

Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said the survey result is a "challenge" to the church to make people aware of the seriousness of issue.

"We need to inform the people about alternatives to the death penalty by adopting a restorative justice paradigm," he said.

Various churches in the country have expressed opposition to the re-imposition of the death penalty, even the watered-down version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives.

The Philippines abolished capital punishment in 1986. It was restored in 1993 and suspended again in 2006.

Duterte has repeatedly called for its re-imposition as a form of "retribution" for victims of crimes.

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