Archbishop Socrates Villegas urges Filipinos to oppose death penalty

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said Thursday that Filipinos need to unite against reinstating the death penalty in the country.

Villegas told CBCP News that it is a "tragedy" to rush the bill's approval in Congress before Christmas.

"In resisting the threat of the restoration of the death penalty, we cannot be disunited or indifferent," he said. "On this pro-life issue, let us truly unite. Come out and make a stand!"

The House Justice Committee approved Wednesday the bill reviving capital punishment on heinous crimes, including illegal drug activities.

Read: House panel okays death penalty bill: Plenary deliberations next week

Proposed methods include death by lethal injection, firing squad and hanging.

Read: Mode of proposed death penalty: Hanging, firing squad, or lethal injection

The House will hold plenary debates on the bill next week. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he expects the House to approve it on second reading before the Christmas break.

Read: Lower House eyes approval of death penalty by Christmas

Villegas also called on the Catholic faithful to join a prayer rally at the Parish of St. Dominic in San Carlos City on Dec. 12.

"I am calling on the God-loving people of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan to come together in prayer to resist the treat of the death penalty in our country," he said in a circular. "The death penalty is contrary to our Catholic moral life. This is a conscience call to stand up for life."

History of death penalty in the Philippines

Article 3, Section 19 of the 1987 Constitution abolished the death penalty, but at the same time gave Congress the discretion to reimpose it for heinous crimes.

It was reinstated during the term of President Fidel Ramos in 1993 through Republic Act 7659. The law provided for death by electric chair and gas chamber, until it was amended by Republic Act 8177 in 1996 to death by lethal injection.

The death penalty was abolished by Republic Act 9346 in 2006 during the Arroyo administration, but President Rodrigo Duterte had expressed his support for its revival to support his war on drugs.

Railroad

Meanwhile, Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the bishops' Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, also told CBCP News that lawmakers allied with the Duterte administration are "trying to railroad" the passage of the bill.

This was despite the fact, he said, that during the committee hearings the anti-death penalty advocates presented pieces of evidence that capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime, is anti-poor and violates international agreements.

"The majority bloc congressmen just wants it passed, period," Diamante said. "And they want it fast as it is among the campaign promises of the incumbent."

Diamante urged those who believe in the sanctity of human life and the dignity of every person to "stand up and resist this railroad attempt to pass this anti-life and anti-poor measure."

"Let us make a more forceful stand against the death penalty," he said. "Now more than ever we need to act fast and swiftly to counteract the prevailing culture of death in our society.'

Diamante called on the faithful to show their opposition to capital punishment and show support for anti-death penalty lawmakers.

"Let us all work together to uphold the sanctity of life! No to the death penalty! Yes to justice that heals!" he added.

Among those who have expressed opposition to the measure are the United Nations, the Commission on Human Rights and Vice President Leni Robredo.

Read: VP, lawmakers weigh in on death penalty revival