Manila (Agenzia Fides) - The Philippine Catholic Church is "in mourning" after the House of Representatives approved the re-imposition of capital punishment in the nation. On March 7, 217 to 54 with one abstention, lawmakers passed the third and final reading the bill to bring back the death penalty. The law was promoted by the government alliance that supports President Rodrigo Duterte and strongly supported by the latter. Now the bill must go to the Senate, Assembly composed of 24 members, in which Duterte’s party holds a majority.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, President of the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines, said he was disappointed because theHouse "has given the state permission to kill" and stated that the Bishops "do not feel defeated or we will be silenced".
"In the middle of Lent - reads an official statement of the Bishops - we prepare to celebrate the triumph of life over death, and while we are saddened because the House voted for death, our faith assures us that life will triumph". Pastors call the faithful to a general mobilization to manifest "the spirit of opposition" to the death penalty. The Bishops ask lawyers, judges and Catholic jurists "to allow the sweetness of the Gospel to illuminate their work and law enforcement", "bringing life in their service to society", he added.
Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Prison, stated that "lawmakers have served their personal interests and not the common good", "sacrificing their conscience and principles".
Capital punishment remained in force during the period of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. It was suspended in 1987 under President Corazon Aquino and then re-introduced during Ramos’ government for "heinous crimes".
The execution of Leo Echegaray was carried out during the presidency of Joseph Estrada, in 1999, which was followed by a new moratorium. In 2006, the government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the abolition of the death penalty before her visit to Pope Benedict XVI. Since 2006, the Philippines supported the abolitionist cause, promoting various initiatives in the international arena and even managing to get the commutation of death sentences imposed on Filipino citizens abroad. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 08/03/2017)