Philippine church leaders urged not to keep silent

May 30, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Philippines, May 30, 2016: Philippine Church leaders should not keep silent despite attacks leveled against them by incoming president Rodrigo Duterte, a former lawmaker said.

“I don’t know why church leaders have been silent since Duterte’s recent attacks against the institution,” said former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

Pimentel, whose party backed the presidential candidacy of Duterte, said Catholic Church leaders should stand firm against the incoming president’s proposal to reimpose capital punishment for heinous crimes.

“Speak up, it is your right,” said Pimentel, adding that the “public and the church are entitled to the right of free expression.”

“While we still have the right, I am urging people to stand for it, especially the church,” said the former senator.

“Capital punishment affects the life of the people, and the church has an obligation to protect life,” said Pimentel, who claimed to be a “pro-life advocate.”

Several church leaders earlier called on Duterte to focus on cleansing the country’s police force and to strengthen the judiciary instead of reimposing the death penalty.

Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila blamed the weak enforcement of laws as one reason for a growing crime rate in the country.

“The police can easily be bought, and in many cases they are the ones behind drug syndicates,” said Bishop Pabillo.

“The death penalty is not a deterrent. Big criminals will not be afraid of the death penalty if they can buy themselves out of trouble,” the prelate said.

In a statement to the media after his election on May 9, Duterte said he will ask Congress to pass a law that will restore the death penalty for certain crimes.

The former mayor of Davao, who has been dubbed “The Punisher” for his tough stance on crime, said criminals involved in illegal drugs, gun-for-hire syndicates, and those who commit “heinous crimes” will have to face the death sentence.

The Catholic Church has largely been against reviving capital punishment.

The Philippines placed a moratorium on capital punishment in 2001 and five years later downgraded the sentences of 1,230 death-row inmates to life imprisonment in what Amnesty International described as the “largest ever commutation of the death sentence.”

– ucan

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