Manila, Philippines, Jan 31, 2017 / 07:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of the Philippines voiced strong objections to proposals intended to reinstate the death penalty in the country. “The Gospel of the Lord Jesus is the Gospel of Life. It is this Gospel we must preach. It is this Gospel that we must uphold,” Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said Jan. 30.
“We therefore unequivocally oppose proposals and moves to return the death penalty into the Philippine legal system,” he added. “We urge the government to champion life for all!” Speaking on behalf of the national bishops’ conference, Archbishop Villegas pointed to the 2006 repeal of legislation that imposed the death penalty for heinous crimes, calling this repeal “a considerable stride in the defense of life.” He said there is an “unmistakable” global trend against the death penalty and international agreements oblige the country not to impose it.
The Philippines legislature is considering a bill that would restore the death penalty for 21 crimes categorized as “heinous.” These include treason, some forms of murder and rape, violent car thefts, and nine drug offenses, the New York Times reports. Some drug crimes involving as little as 10 grams of methamphetamines or marijuana oil result in capital punishment.
Archbishop Villegas voiced regret over the “strident efforts” to revive the death penalty. “Though the crime be heinous, no person is ever beyond redemption, and we have no right ever giving up on any person,” he said. “When we condemn violence, we cannot ourselves be its perpetrators, and when we decry murder, we cannot ourselves participate in murder, no matter that it may be accompanied by the trappings of judicial and legal process.”
The country’s bishops have previously clashed with the government of President Rodrigo Duterte, charging that his drug war violates legal process and moral norms. At least 2,250 drug suspects have been reported killed by police, while at least 3,700 others were murdered by unknown suspects who sometimes accused their victims of being drug dealers or addicts, according to Agence France Presse. Some churches have put up banners denouncing the extrajudicial killings, while some priests and bishops are afraid to speak out against the killings, Jerome Secillano, public affairs chief for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said last week.