Philippine Bid to Abolish Death Penalty Has Church Support

Bill Proposes 30-Year Prison Terms Without Parole

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MANILA, Philippines, MARCH 18, 2002 (ZENIT.orgFides).- The Catholic Church in the Philippines made an impassioned appeal to the government for the abolition of the death penalty.

«It is the bishops´ duty to speak out the truth in their opposition to the death penalty law, regardless of particular events or political developments,» Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, president of the Philippines bishops´ conference, said in a statement to the Vatican agency Fides.

Some observers say the subject has been raised for political reasons because former President Joseph Estrada is now being tried for crimes punishable by death.

Last week, 15 out of 24 senators filed a bill to repeal and replace the 1993 death penalty law. Senator Aquilino Pimentel, spokesman for the group and sponsor of the bill, explained: «The death penalty has not achieved the principal objective of modern criminal penology, which is to deter crime.»

The senator said that retributive justice has no place in modern society. As an alternative to the death penalty he suggested that hardened criminals should instead serve an imprisonment of 30 years without parole. He said he hopes his bill will be passed by June.

Cardinal Jaime Sin, archbishop of Manila, supports the senators´ move for the abolition of the death penalty. In a statement, the cardinal reiterated that killing an individual in the name of the law is not a deterrent to crime. «If we want to prevent crimes we must restore the confidence of our people in our peace-and-order personnel,» he said.

«The Church of course supports the efforts of Senator Pimentel and we would like to congratulate him for taking the initiative to repeal the death penalty law,» said Rudolf Diamante, executive secretary of the bishops´ Commission on Prison Pastoral Care.

The first execution under the most-recent law was in 1999: Leo Echegaray, found guilty of rape, was killed by a lethal injection. Since then, seven more were executed, until Dec. 20, 2000, when President Estrada declared a temporary suspension of further executions.

There are 1,007 people on death row in the Philippines. Among them are 15 women, 12 minors, and 15 foreign nationals, most of the latter for drug offenses.

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