Catholic prayer and protests greeted proposals to expand the use of the death penalty in the Philippines, with the move drawing outspoken opposition from the country's bishops.
“Christ died for the criminals and the victims. The love of God is
for all. Our love should be like God's love. For all,” said Archbishop
Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan at a Dec. 12 prayer rally in San
“We are not protesting without a solution. We are protesting with an
alternative. Reform the criminal justice system,” he added. “If there's a
death penalty but the criminal justice system is corrupt, slow and
one-sided, rapist and plunderer, and (drug) pusher and killer will
In 2006 the country abolished the death penalty for crimes involving
drugs, rape and arson.
Now, President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters
have sought to reinstate capital punishment for such crimes, citing
rising crime rates and drug use.
Archbishop Villegas, however, said that the courts can make mistakes,
and there is no way to correct a mistake after a prisoner is executed.
He said the death penalty is “a lazy form of penalty” that does not help
reform “those who made mistakes.”
Since July 1, when the new president took office, more than 2,000
people have died in police operations against illicit drugs, Reuters
reports. Those killed are mainly street level drug dealers, accused by
police of resisting arrest.
In the same time frame, another 3,000 people have been killed by
masked men and vigilantes on motorcycles. President Duterte has denied
claims of extrajudicial killings.
Senators have reported that they have no clear proof the killings are
linked to state-sponsored actions. They have told the president to
observe due process for the accused.
Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila and the Manila archdiocese’s
presbyteral council urged a prayer against the death penalty to be
recited at all Sunday Masses in the archdiocese Sunday Dec. 8.
“Father, source and giver of life, we lift our hearts and voices to
you. Help us to build a society that truly chooses life in all
situations,” began the prayer, with the response “Lord, heal our pain.”
The prayer was on behalf of victims, perpetrators and society.
“There is in our land a cry for vengeance and a move to fill up death
rows and kill offenders but disguised as a call for justice,” the
prayer continued. “Let true and lasting justice spring forth.”
The prayer petitioned that Jesus, who suffered execution at the hands
of the powerful, help Christians “reach out to victims of violence so
that our enduring love may help heal their wounds.”
A separate proposal in the Philippines would lower the age of
criminal liability to nine years old from 12.
The bishops have warned
this could escalate violence related to anti-drug campaigns.