01/16/2004, 00.00
philippines

Bishops: Capital punishment is government's thirst for death

Manila (AsiaNews) – Today Manila's Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales together with Archbishop Oscar Cruz, former president of the Philippine Bishops' Conference, said the government's reinstatement of capital punishment is immoral and inhumane. Archbishop Cruz's words , however, were more poignant.

In a statement entitled "Kill!", Msgr. Cruz harshly criticized that the government's "thirst for the death even of criminals is not human; … (it) is incapable of keeping law and order."

He said that "actions" should be punishable by law, not the "lives" of individuals.

"The difference between a criminal and a saint consists in their actions: their individual life is exactly the same," Archbishop Cruz said. "It is therefore their 'actions' that should be penalized or pardoned; it is not their 'lives' that should be terminated or prolonged."

Msgr. Cruz sustained that capital punishment must be repealed by all means. But, in the meantime, he urged national leaders to exercise their prerogative to speak out against "abominable" state executions: "It's not simply a matter of political will, but an ethical imperative."

He blamed the reinstatement of capital punishment on a country promoting a "culture of death", whose leaders invoke the government to kill its very own citizens.

Archbishop Cruz's statement came after 13 European ambassadors visited death row inmates yesterday at the Philippine National Penitentiary. At a press conference held afterward, the diplomats reiterated their dismay for the government's choice to reinstate the death penalty. They said many governments around the world have already dismissed it as legal form of punishment, stating that killing persons does not deter crimes.

Ambassador Jan de Kok, head of the European Union delegation to the Philippines, said: "The EU does not dispute the seriousness of the crimes for which individuals are convicted…. However, the EU remains convinced that the death penalty provides no added value in terms of deterrence. In addition, (any) miscarriage of justice would be irreversible."

Currently there are 1,005 persons on death row in the Philippines, among whom 17 are foreigners (many charged for illegal drug dealings) and 29 women, eight being over 60 years of age and sentenced for illegal drug-related crimes. Two men on death row are charged with kidnapping and are scheduled for execution by lethal injection this Jan. 30. A total of 158 violent kidnappings were recorded in 2003.

The government imposed the death penalty on the two men charged with violent kidnapping, believing that their execution will help put a stop to such abductions in the country. The archbishop responded in harsh terms, stating that "if but one kidnapping occur after their scheduled executions, the government had better renounce governance." (SE)
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