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Philippine Bishops Reject Death Penalty

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A mature sense of justice steers as far as possible from retribution, conference asserts.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Wednesday reiterated its opposition to restoring the death penalty.

In a note sent to Fides, the bishops recall the Gospel passage in which Jesus says, "I came that they may have life, and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10).

"Our posture cannot be otherwise," the bishops say. However, they explain, the position they take is defensible even on non-religious grounds. 

In fact, " justice does not demand the death penalty, adding that a mature sense of justice steers as far as possible from retribution in the realization that visiting on an offender the same injury he inflicted on his victim makes matters no better at all for anyone." Instead "justice aims to restore broken relations and the ruptured social coherence that follow from crime."

Executing a human person, they say, does not contribute to any of these goals of justice. In fact, it is a weak and retrogressive legal order that calls for the execution of offenders for its vindication."

The bishops call capital punishment "cruel and inhuman," firstly for the anxiety and psychological distress that comes upon one who awaits execution. Secondly, the relatives of the condemned persons, many times including children, are stigmatized for life.

The bishops note to Fides recalls that every judicial system "is, like all human systems, liable to error. But the death penalty, once executed, is irreversible, and no repentance or regret can ever make up for the horrible injustice of a person wrongfully executed."

Meanwhile, the bishops’ conference said the Philippines is a state party of the Second Optional Protocol of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As such, it said the principal obligation it assumed under this international agreement is to abolish the death penalty. 

While saying they "are rightly appalled by the heinous nature of some crimes committed today," the moral, Christian and mature response to this common social challenge is in the prevention of crime, greater vigilance on the part of those in law enforcement, and for prosecutors and courts to be resolute in the prosecution of offenders.

Some members of the Senate in the Philippines have expressed the desire to revive the death penalty. It was suspended in 2006.